Miller’s grab saves game for Preble
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Green Bay Preble’s Bryce Miller didn’t get a chance to win the game with his bat, so he made sure he did with his glove.
With Preble leading by a run in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs and two De Pere runners on base, Miller scooped third baseman Josh Nicklaus’ low throw to end the game.
The game-saving play by Miller helped the Hornets escape with a 6-5 Fox River Classic Conference victory April 26 at De Pere High School.
“I had total faith in my third baseman to make the play, but he didn’t make the throw the best way he knows he can,” said Miller, who didn’t bat in the game. “I had to pick it to end the game. I didn’t want to overstride and go out to get the ball too far. I was prepared to stay back and take a blow from (De Pere base runner Dane Meyer) running down the line.”
Preble came into the bottom of the seventh with a 6-2 lead, only to see the Redbirds get five straight runners on base after two were out.
“That was a really good baseball game between two really good teams,” said Preble head coach Andy Conard. “You play to the final out, but I give a lot of credit to De Pere. It took an outstanding play by our first baseman on a really difficult in-between hop to end the game. I liked the way our guys played overall, but we have some things to work on.”
After Hornets starting pitcher Max Wagner walked Brett Bradison to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Conard brought in Zach Renier, who promptly struck out the first two batters he faced.
That’s when the Redbirds began their rally.
Derek Weber singled before Tyler Jones reached on an infield error to load the bases.
Ben Basten forced in a run with a walk before Tyler Blum plated two with a single to right.
With runners on first and third, De Pere tried to tie the game with some trickery with Meyer at the plate.
Blum took off from first after Renier came to a pause on the mound, but the senior righty calmly stepped off the rubber and made sure Basten didn’t score from third on the play.
“We had practiced that play the day before the game,” said De Pere head coach Bob VanRens. “We had our two fastest guys on the bases, and we wanted to try and make something happen. It got Blum into scoring position, but we were trying to get Basten home – or maybe cause a balk or something. Give credit to Preble – they didn’t panic.”
Four pitches later, Miller’s heroics at first ended the game.
De Pere had to overcome a big blow early in the game after starting pitcher Will Semb left the game with elbow tightness after the first inning.
“I’m very proud of our guys for battling right to the end after Will went down,” added VanRens about Semb, who is a University of Iowa recruit. “Hopefully he will be okay.”
Bennett Spaeth and JP Gauthier each pitched three innings in relief for the Redbirds.
With Wagner cruising and the Hornets leading 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth, it appeared the game was well in hand for Preble.
But De Pere scored two runs on two Preble errors and a double by Spaeth in the fifth.
The Hornets had scored four runs on four hits in the fourth to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
They added single tallies in the fifth and seventh.
Wagner struck out seven, walked two and allowed two earned runs on two hits.
No. 8 and 9 hitters, Hunter Petska and Jake Petasek, respectively, had two hits each for Preble, while Wagner, a Clemson recruit, walked three times.
Petska also scored three runs.
The victory for the Hornets (5-2 overall, 4-2 FRCC) was important in the FRCC race and stopped their two-game losing skid.
For De Pere (7-2, 6-1), it was the first conference loss of its season.
Preble left 13 runners stranded on base, including leaving at least one on base in every inning and the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings.
“When we got runners on base, we had the right guys at the plate to drive them in,” added Conard. “I’m not really concerned we left so many on base. The guys that didn’t come through today, I’d want them up to bat in those situations all day and twice on Sundays.”
Preble: 000 410 1 – 6 7 3
De Pere: 000 020 3 – 5 4 1