The Richland Center Hornets needed a bounce-back win to get back into the SWC race.
And Todd Wienkes gave it to them here Tuesday. Wienkes mesmerized the Platteville Hillmen, who entered the game undefeated in the SWC. The senior right-hander fired a one-hitter and struck out 12 as the Hornets regained at least a share of first place (depending on the outcome of the River Valley-Lancaster game).
The one-hit shutout came on the heels of Wienkes' no-hitter against Riverdale, but he said this performance was better. "My fastball, curve and change-up were all working," Wienkes said, "and changing my arm angle seemed to confuse them a little more."
In addition, the Hornets needed a win against the Hillmen to stay in what appears to be a tight title race.
Besides, it was so near perfection. A leadoff single to left field by Cooley in the fifth inning was Platteville's only hit - if not Wienkes' only errant pitch. Wienkes retired the first 12 batters he faced and struck out 12.
The Hornets needed every bit of pitching Wienkes could muster and every bit of defense his teammates could provide because Platteville's Logan Emendorfer was nearly as good.
Emendorfer tossed a three-hitter and fanned seven with a performance which would have been a winner 99 times out of 100. His only problem was the Hornets bunched two hits and Platteville's only error in the second inning.
The Hornets have struggled offensively most of the season despite an 8-3 record. They manufactured all the offense needed in the second inning. Jace Simonson walloped a towering triple off the right field fence. With one out, Simonson scored when Shane Sosinsky's grounder was booted.
Cody Jump and Wienkes accounted for the Hornets' other two hits.
The Hornets, who have been limited to one run or less in five of 11 games and have managed to win two of them, will play three SWC foes during the upcoming week. The Hornets will go to Lancaster Thursday and to Prairie du Chien on Friday. They are scheduled to return home to face Dodgeville Tuesday.