Bay Port ends conference schedule with win
By Greg Bates
PULASKI – A baseball team doesn’t win 20 of its first 21 games of a season by accident.
All year, Bay Port has used a combination of clutch hitting, solid pitching and sound defense to win games.
That foolproof formula was effective against Pulaski Tuesday, June 8.
Bay Port’s offense tallied a three-run first inning, its pitchers surrendered just one hit and its defense played error-free ball as the Pirates pulled off a 6-1 victory in Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) action.
“We build our program from doing the small things right and being able to hit well, especially in clutch moments, like we usually do,” Bay Port senior Eli Frank said. “Fundamentals on the field and being able to have no errors and pitching well, too – it helps.”
Bay Port improved to 20-1 on the season (17-1 in the FRCC) and moved up to No. 2 in Division 1 in the final Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association poll of the regular season.
The Pirates have rattled off 10 straight wins after losing their only contest of the season to Ashwaubenon May 17.
“This game I thought was a strong game,” Bay Port coach Harvey Knutson said. “Pulaski is a good team – they always fight. We always have a game with them. It’s never easy when you’re facing someone like (Easton) Vertz on the mound.”
Bay Port got on Pulaski’s ace pitcher in the opening inning, which set the tone for the game.
Jacob Kleeman led off by reaching base on a Red Raiders’ throwing error, and Carl Cano followed with a single.
Logan VanLaanen hit a routine ground ball to second base, but it was booted as Kleeman came around to score.
James Bornick stepped to the plate and ripped a double to score Cano and courtesy runner Kyle Burklund for a 3-0 lead.
“They had a couple of good hits, but I felt we handed them those runs,” Pulaski coach Dennis Bogacz said. “You can’t spot a team as good as Bay Port three runs in the first inning. We were fighting an uphill battle from there and were never able to break through.”
Plating those three runs made Bay Port starting pitcher Gavin Rusch settle in, along with his defense.
“It’s a big momentum swing to start, especially to get ourselves going right away,” Frank said. “It keeps us up, and it keeps us going for the rest of the game. Credit to (Vertz) – he’s a good pitcher, and I’ve worked with him in the offseason.”
Cano stroked a one-out single in the third inning and Frank smacked a run-scoring triple to right-center field.
VanLaanen followed with a bloop single to bring in Frank to make it 5-0.
Pulaski (10-12, 7-12) threatened in the bottom of the third with runners on first and second with two outs, but Rusch retired Brinton Anderson to strike out the side.
The Red Raiders opened the fourth with Vertz and Logan Kobus each walking.
With one out and runners at second and third, a wild pitch brought in Vertz to make it 5-1.
Matt Perry and Kleeman started the next inning with back-to-back singles for Bay Port.
Cano walked to load the bases, and Frank hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Perry.
Cano was stranded at third.
Rusch picked up the win on the mound for Bay Port.
He allowed one run on one hit and struck out four.
Vertz was dealt the loss, giving up three earned runs on seven hits while striking out seven.
Bay Port will have its final regular-season game of the season on Friday against West De Pere (17-4).
“We’re trying to make sure our starters are getting their reps, we’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of good players,” Knutson said. “I’m trying to get other guys reps, too. Friday will be our last game before the playoffs, and that’s a big game for us. We’re playing a quality opponent in West De Pere. That’s the type of game and team we’re going to be playing in the playoffs moving forward.”
Because he said he’s excited about the impending playoffs, Frank is having a hard time getting to sleep at night.
“We’re hoping we can heat up and be able to get going for playoffs,” he said. “We like to keep winning streaks going and be able to stay hot when we get into the playoffs.”
Top-seeded Bay Port will have an opening-round bye before taking on the winner of No. 4 Green Bay Preble and No. 5 Pulaski, which will be played June 15.
The regional semifinal game is June 17.
Bay Port has scored six or more runs in nine of its last 11 games.
“They find ways to gel and play together well, and when you have all facets working – hitting, pitching and defense – that’s not always easy to line up,” Knutson said.
Frank said he isn’t convinced he and his teammates are playing their best ball right now.
“I think we can play better,” he said. “We can hit better, too. But, we’re not mad about how we’re playing right now.”