The bullpen has been a trouble spot for the La Crosse Loggers and their manager Brian Lewis so far this season.
So when Chris Boettcher was forced to come on with runners on second and third with nobody out in the sixth inning, the pressure was on. When Boettcher plunked the first hitter he faced to load the bases, it only amplified.
But Boettcher induced a double play to get out of the jam with minimum damage, and that sequence was the start of a solid outing for the Loggers’ pen. The bullpen threw four innings, allowed one run, and the offense busted out to help the Loggers snap a two-game losing streak and defeat the Bismarck Larks 11-3 in front of 2,962 spectators at Copeland Park on Sunday.
Although the final score indicates a blowout, this one was close throughout.
And it was that sixth inning that proved to be the difference. The Loggers (10-17) held a 5-2 advantage, but that lead was in jeopardy after the Larks chased Logger starter Cody Ebert by putting runners on the corners with none out. After loading the bases, Boettcher allowed a run-scoring single up the middle, causing his manager to sweat a little bit.
“I mean I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little nervous because it was a tough situation,” Lewis said. “But I have a lot of confidence in Chris and what he has done over the years. He was able to get that ground ball and get out of the inning. He came in and did the job we needed him to do.”
Boettcher would strike out former Logger Connor Perry before getting Mitch Gallagher to hit into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play. Gallagher entered the game third in the Northwoods League in batting average (.364) and had two hits before that.
“It looked like at first it might be getting stuck in (shortstop Cameron Cannon’s) glove a little bit when he was getting ready to flip, but (second baseman) Jake (Hirabayashi) made a great turn on it,” Lewis said. “Jake Hirabayashi, what he does for this team words don’t describe... He does a nice job at second base and did a great job turning that double play.”
In his second year in La Crosse, Hirabayashi has been a different player. Lewis mentioned he has added more muscle to his frame. So far that has paid dividends at the plate, as Hirabayashi added two more hits tonight to raise his batting average to .400. He also drove in three runs including a big two-run single on a 2-2 count in the fifth to give the Loggers a 5-2 advantage.
“He had two big hits today, his two-out RBI hit was huge,” Lewis said. “He brings confidence to this team and has been an electric player since he has gotten here for us.”
Hirabayashi was one of five Loggers to record multiple hits. Grant Judkins, David Villar, and Luke Rasmussen — the two, three, and four hole hitters for the Loggers, respectively — went a combined 8-for-13 to help lead a Logger offense that scored 11 runs on 14 hits.
“It’s awesome to have guys like that in the middle of the order,” Lewis said. “Now that we have added Luke Rasmussen, who has been pretty good the last few nights, we feel like we have a legitimate middle of the order.”
The Loggers and the Larks are back in action at 7:05 p.m. today at Copeland Park. The Loggers will send Grant Ford to the mound, as they look for the sweep before heading out on the road for six straight.
WEST SALEM — Both top finishers of the YMCA Got Energy Triathlon bagged homecoming wins Sunday morning.
The 14th running of the annual race, which starts in Lake Neshonoc, had cool conditions throughout, hovering in the mid-50s temperatures for the 8 a.m. starting dip into the lake to swim the first quarter mile. Racers were relieved the water was warmer than the air.
Andrew Ernst, a 22-year old Onalaska native, was the top male finisher for the second year in a row, finishing well ahead of the pack at 1 hour, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
Ernst, a recent graduate from Wisconsin, finished about a half hour faster than he did in his first YMCA triathlon six years ago. Ernst was on track to hit his target time of an hour and five minutes, aided by the usual 3.1-mile running leg being closer to about 2.7 miles on the sprint-sized course that concludes in Swarthout Park.
“I joined cross country and track in high school because of triathlons,” said Ernst, who started out running races with his younger brother Konrad, who is the varsity heavyweight wrestler at UW-La Crosse.
Ernst’s rooted interest in cycling helped him burgeon as a triathlete, where the longest legs are spent on a bike. As an undergrad, Ernst was a member of a running club at Madison and got the chance to race in some national triathlons.
“There I was just a number in the crowd,” said Ernst, who says his biggest improvements have been his transitions, which are easily overlooked in triathlons. Knowing how to precisely get out of the water and onto a bike are vital for a top finish.
“I could train for a long time to get 30 seconds faster on the bike,” Ernst said. “But I could cut a similar amount by just not putting on my socks, or something small like that.”
JAGIELO: Deana Jagielo, a 26 year old from Hokah, Minn., was the first female to cross the finish line in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 39 seconds.
Jagielo and her husband Anthony, whom she refers to as her husband/triathlon coach, make the trip back every year to run in the YMCA race and visit her family. Jagielo started running triathlons about six years ago, and now has ran so many she’s lost count. She is currently training in hopes of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in South Africa.
Jagielo traded leads twice during the cycling leg with second-place female finisher Angela Smith before creating plenty of finishing space for herself. Jagielo enjoys the competitive ambiguity that exists in triathlons.
“The races are always fun because you can have someone who’s a really fast swimmer or runner that won’t finish high,” said Jagielo. “But if you’re just okay at all three legs, you could end up winning.”
GILLIES: The homecoming for the winners was more of a home race for John Gillies, who finished seventh overall and second in his age range of 50-54 at 1:14. Gillies and his La Crosse running crew call themselves the Bluff Busters, who use the bluffs for training ground for triathlons.
Gillies and the Bluff Busters make up a part of the welcoming network of local triathletes who take part in the setting up the YMCA race. Gillies appreciates the everydayness that exists in triathlons more than single exercise competitions, like having to bring your own bicycle to the race.
“Some people just take the bike they ride to work, put their tag on it and are ready to race,” said Gillies, who had two daughters waiting for him at the finish line.
“There’s a lot of people doing it just to say they’ve done one, because it really is a huge accomplishment,” Gillies said. “When you tell somebody that isn’t into exercising regularly, and say there’s swimming, biking and then running, back-to-back-to-back — they think you are crazy.”
ATLANTA (AP) — Travis Shaw is the first player to reach SunTrust Park’s right-field roof, and he basically shrugged his shoulders about the whole thing.
After all, he hit a longer homer earlier this season.
Shaw sparked Milwaukee’s sluggish lineup with a long two-run drive, leading Zach Davies and the Brewers to a 7-0 victory over Julio Teheran and the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
After managing just five runs while dropping the first two games of the series, the Brewers scored seven times in the first four innings. The Braves had won four straight games.
Shaw’s 15th homer started the scoring. Domingo Santana singled with two out in the first before Shaw’s drive traveled 429 feet, landing on the roof over the second section of the new stadium before falling back into the seats.
Braves right fielder Nick Markakis turned his head to watch the long homer but otherwise didn’t move.
“It was a pretty good one, probably the second-best ball I’ve hit this year,” said Shaw, who belted a 458-foot shot off the third-deck facing at Miller Park against St. Louis on April 21.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell was impressed with Sunday’s homer.
“I believe that no one has hit it there because that’s pretty far,” Counsell said.
Keon Broxton added three hits and three RBI as the NL Central-leading Brewers opened a 1½-game lead over the Chicago Cubs, who lost 4-2 at Miami. Broxton’s 13th homer barely cleared the right-field wall in the second, and he also had a two-run single in Milwaukee’s three-run third.
Davies (8-4) pitched seven innings of four-hit ball, bouncing back nicely from his worst start of the season. He allowed seven runs and 10 hits in a 7-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
“You felt he was in control the whole outing,” Counsell said. “For the most part he was just ahead of hitters. He had hitters off balance the whole day.”
Teheran allowed seven runs and seven hits in three-plus innings. Manager Brian Snitker said Teheran “wasn’t hitting on anything and had a tough day.”
Teheran has given up 19 homers this season, including 13 at home, where his record fell to 1-6.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Snitker said. “He’ll get back and get to work and get on a roll like he was before.”
NOT BAD: Despite the loss, the Braves have won four straight series for their best stretch since winning five straight to close the 2016 season.
CATCHING HELP: The Brewers claimed catcher Stephen Vogt off waivers from Oakland. The 32-year-old Vogt, an All-Star in 2015 and 2016, was hitting .217 when he was designated for assignment by the A’s on Thursday.
Catcher Jett Bandy and outfielder Lewis Brinson were optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Counsell said Vogt’s left-handed bat will add balance to the lineup. Vogt will share time with Manny Pina.
HE CAN HIT: Davies also enjoyed a rare highlight at the plate, hitting a leadoff double in the fourth for his first career extra-base hit. That chased Teheran, who struck out three and walked two.
“I wanted to be part of the hitting, too,” Davies said.
TRAINER’S ROOM: Brewers SS Orlando Arcia remained in the game after he swung and hit a foul ball that bounced near the plate and knocked off his helmet in the eighth. ... 2B Eric Sogard, hit by a pitch on his right elbow in Friday night’s game, was back in the lineup after being limited to pinch-hitting duty on Saturday.
Braves LF Matt Kemp (tightness in left hamstring) was a late addition to the lineup after missing two games.
WEST SALEM — The action was intense, even hair-raising, late Saturday night at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway.
With seven laps left in the 25-lap Tobacco Outlet Plus Late Model Division feature race, the top 10 cars in the 25-car field were jostling for position, sometimes within inches — or less — of each other. Tony Leis and Cole Howland, who had both staked claim to the lead for a number of laps, found themselves stalked by hot-running Nick Panitzke, Brad Powell and four-time defending track champion Steve Carlson.
The six-pack of cars was jammed together coming out of Turn 4, and a wreck seemed destined to happen.
Instead, Panitzke somehow found a sliver of daylight, shot through it, took the lead and held it for the last six laps to snare his division-leading third Late Model feature win of the season.
Powell, a former track champion, shot low and grabbed second place, then held it. Carlson, who has one feature win this season, also made it through the tight quarters and settled for third place.
Panitzke, a driver from Lonsdale, Minn., who insists he’s running on a week-to-week basis, found himself in Victory Lane once again. He’s also atop a hot and heated points race with 307 markers.
That’s 16 ahead of second-place Carlson (291).
“Honestly, I did not think I had the car to win tonight. The motor was kind of fouling up on me, I think because of the (wet) weather,” said Panitzke of a night where showers hit the West Salem facility around 6 p.m.
“We were not quite geared up for this type of weather, with the jets (in the carburetor). I had some other issues going on with the carburetor, too. I think the car was definitely hooked up well, we’ve just got some engine work to do over the week and hopefully we will be a little better next week.”
That’s scary news for the rest of the Late Model field, as Panitzke has been the surprise of the season so far. His black No. 22 is fast, but that’s not the only thing that has kept him ahead of the pack.
A veteran of a number of Midwestern series, including the ARCA Midwest Tour and the Big 8 Series, Panitzke has shown Fairgrounds Speedway fans he can be a strategic driver, too. He spent much of the first 15 laps running in third place before making his move.
“You’ve got to be smart there. My car, it didn’t fire off like the other guys’ cars. Honestly, they were just faster at the beginning of the race and I just had to be smart there and make sure I stayed out of that mess,” Panitzke said.
“Those guys, they seemed to get kind of excited at the start of the race. There is plenty of laps, and even though there is 25 laps, these tires still do wear out. I thought if I took it easy in third, bide my time, they would come back to me.
“We had no intentions of staying in third, even though it may have appeared that way. Honestly, I just had to bide my time and let them come back to me instead of me chasing them down.”
Powell and Carlson appeared to have the cars to chase Panitzke down, but both got penned in by other cars for parts of the race.
“The car is good, but I just kind of get in the wrong lane. On the restarts I pick the wrong lane and lose some spots, and it is hard to gain them all back,” Carlson said. “This is a pretty rough year. We are scuffing up a lot of body panels, but we’re having fun. We’ve got a long ways to go.”
Powell knows Panitzke has put the Late Model field on notice that he’s the driver to beat, but he simply smiled when asked if he could catch Panitzke.
“He has got a good car. His car is strong and we’ll see. I’ve got more tricks up my sleeve,” said Powell, who made a nifty move with six laps left when he went low, then stole second place.
“That is racing, though… Hopefully you pick the right move. I just aimed for the bottom and went. It (car) doesn’t take off right away on restarts, but it takes a few laps and it gets pretty good.”
WET START: While the level of racing has been cranked up this summer at the Fairgrounds Speedway, General Manager Chuck Deery is waiting for the weather to cooperate.
Saturday night’s crowd, estimated at 1,200, was late arriving after two bands of showers hit the West Salem area. Three complete race programs have been rained out, and Deery said it has either rained, or had a serious threat of rain, on seven of eight race nights this season.