VERONA — Using an effective mix of his curveball, fastball and changeup, Verona senior left-hander Reagan Klawiter painted the corners and was totally in command Tuesday night in a Big Eight Conference baseball game that began as a pitcher’s duel and ended as a blowout.
Klawiter struck out eight, walked one and allowed only one hit over five shutout innings as host Verona blanked Middleton 10-0 in the first game of a doubleheader at Stampfl Field.
Middleton (4-1, 3-1 Big Eight) bounced back with a 7-3 victory over Verona (4-1, 3-1) in the nightcap.
“I felt good with my curveball,” said Klawiter, an Illinois State commit. “I was able to get it in the zone for strikes and for swings and misses, as well. That was a big part of the game plan — to be able to mix all three pitches for strikes.
“I was able to work not so much in the middle of the plate but to work around the corners and then just being able to mix that curveball for strikes and getting swings and misses when needed was big.”
In the first game, the Wildcats scored once on a throwing error in the bottom of the second inning. Klawiter and Cardinals starter Matt Ballweg, a senior left-hander, were locked in a tight battle through 4½ innings. Ballweg permitted only two hits while striking out seven in his first four innings.
But the Wildcats then scored nine runs on four hits, five walks and three Middleton errors in the bottom of the fifth — ending the game due to the 10-run rule.
“(Klawiter) is a dominant pitcher,” Verona coach Brad D’Orazio said. “He’s getting ahead of guys, and that’s big. … To put up that many runs against Middleton was surprising. It kept snowballing. It was good to see them take advantage of it.”
Wildcats sophomore second baseman James Rae singled to right and freshman catcher Mason Fink walked to open the fifth. Senior center fielder Tyler McWilliams singled to left, driving in two runs and chasing Ballweg. The floodgates then opened, leading to the nine-run outburst.
“I definitely felt it was going to be tight,” said Klawiter, who also picked up a victory against Janesville Parker last week. “(Ballweg) has been a good pitcher for them the last couple years. You saw at the beginning his ability to throw strikes and be in the zone. He was keeping our hitters off-balance. Our hitters just came up clutch with some big at-bats and put some pressure on Middleton. We capitalized on those opportunities.”
The Cardinals, who shared the Big Eight title with Sun Prairie last year, grabbed a 7-3 lead in the second game with four runs in the bottom of the second inning.
Junior first baseman Adam Casali ripped a double into the left-center field gap, driving in three runs and scoring on a throwing error on the play. Casali, who also had a first-inning RBI, knocked in four runs overall.
“He’s seeing it well, he’s swinging it well, hitting the ball to all sides of the field,” Middleton first-year coach Brent Jorgensen said of Casali. “That’s why we put him in the four spot because we want him in a position to drive in runs. He came through for us again in a big spot.”
Jorgensen — who replaced longtime coach Tom Schmitt, who stepped down after last season — was glad to see the Cardinals rebound after the one bad inning in the first game when he believed they weren’t mentally tough enough.
“Our bounce-back in the second game seemed to be the opposite, where we had guys who wanted to be up the plate, wanted the ball hit to them, wanted to make the big pitch get us out of the inning, wanted to extend the inning on offense,” Jorgensen said. “I think that really was a difference.”
Junior right-hander Ben Collier started for Middleton and struck out eight in four innings, allowing three runs and six hits while mixing fastballs, curveballs and changeups.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but left-handed reliever Quinn Hodgman worked out of the jam without giving up a run.
Right-hander Sam Pederson, Verona’s starter in the second game, lasted only two batters before leaving with a cut on his pitching hand, D’Orazio said.
The schools decided to move Thursday’s game at Middleton to Tuesday because of a forecast for inclement weather later this week. Middleton was the home team for the second game.
Middleton 000 00 - 0 1 5
Verona 010 09 - 10 5 0
Pitchers — (ip-h-er-bb-so): Klawiter (W; 5-1-0-1-8); Ballweg (L; 4-3-3-2-7), Stumpf (0-1-3-3-0), Schultz (0.2-1-0-1-1).
Leading Hitters — Verona: Rae 2x3.
Verona 120 000 0 - 3 6 2
Middleton 340 000 x - 7 8 0
Pitchers — (ip-h-er-bb-so): Ducharme (L; 4-0-0-3-2), Grossnickle (2-0-3-1-1), Pederson (0-1-2-2-1-0); Collier (W; 4-0-3-3-8), Hodgman (1-0-0-1-1), Stumpf (2-0-0-2-2).
Leading Hitters — Verona: 2B — Brazeau, McWilliams. Middleton: Hodgman 2x4, Kalscheur 2x2. 2B — Smith, Casali.