CHAMPAIGN - The WSL kicked off in the Midwest on Friday in Champaign, IL at the University of Illinois Baseball Field. The Midwest Conference 16U and 15U age groups are battling in a pennant race to determine the 2013 WSL Midwest Conference Championship. This is Week #1 of a 2-week stretch that will determine this inaugural season's conference championship.
The vast majority of the games are played at University of Illinois' Baseball Stadium. Unlike most tournaments, the Illini home stadium is the main venue for the event, and teams will play at least 3, and some teams all 4 of their games at Illinois Baseball Stadium. WSL events are unlike large tournaments in that regard, and more games are played at premier venues.
The Illini home turf is, in fact, turf. The entire field is artificial turf, with the only dirt on the field stemming from the pitcher's mound.
The first game in WSL Midwest history took place at 1130am between Top Tier and the MN Starz. Read below for the blog from that game.
TOP TIER 5, MN STARZ 1
In the first game of the day, Top Tier 16U used a strong pitching performance from 2015 grad Matt Ryan (5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 8 K) and 2 innings of shutout relief from 2015 grad Austin Blazevic (2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER) to hold the Minnesota Starz 16U Red in check 5-1.
Ryan sat 75-77mph with his fastball, but changed speeds well to keep the Starz off balance. Ryan walked 5, but the Starz couldn't get the timely hit to close the gap. Blazevic came in to shut the door on the final 2 innings, running his fastball up to 81mph on a few pitches but sitting mostly 78-80mph.
The Starz Red were held to just 1 hit on the day, a Justin Lembeck single, his 2nd time reaching base on the day.
Top Tier got a multi-hit day from 2015 OF Eric Giltz - who hit out of the 3-hole. 2015 grad Brady Fairfield added a triple and 2 runs scored to help Top Tier pull away. Giltz, 2016 Matt Burch and 2015 Neil Lambert racked up a few stolen bases to keep the pressure on and help Top Tier expand their lead.
RACINE HITTERS 8, MCHENRY COUNTY HURRICANES 1
2016 grad Houston Cowan pitched a near CG shutout, allowing 1 unearned run for the Racine Hitters in Friday's 8-1 victory over the McHenry County Hurricanes. Cowan stayed in the 78mph range with his fastball, slightly above average for a 2016 grad, as he held the 'Canes in check with just 2 hits on the game.
Cowan's effort was just gravy as the Hitters pounded out 8 runs on 6 hits lead by a 2 for 4, 2 RBI effort from 2016 Ricky Bergstrom. 2016 Joe Gahm tripled, and 2015 Angel Verduzco added a double for the Hitters -- prompting WSL staffers in the pressbox to create a new social media hashtag to honor them: "#HittersCanHit".
RACINE HITTERS 3, PHD BASEBALL 0
The Racine Hitters 16U took the field after their 15U, and completed the sweep on the day. In 2 games today between the 15U and 16U age groups, The Hitters program combine to go 2-0 and outscored their opponents 11-1.
This 16U game vs PHD MN 16U was close throughout - as Hitters scored 1 in the first inning - and it stayed 1-0 until the Hitters hung a 2-spot in the bottom of the 5th to pull away. 6'9" PHD pitcher and 2015 grad Sean Hjelle came in relief and slowed down Hitters bats going 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R.
The heart of the Hitters order 2-3-4 did the big damage for Hitters baseball. 2-hole hitter and 2016 grad Td Walker went 1-for-3 with a triple and scored twice. 3-hole hitter and 2016 grad Justin Lavey got a hit, RBI and scored. And 4-hole hitter/2016 grad Dominic Clementi drove them in with a 2-for-2 performance and 2 of his team's 3 RBI.
PHD Baseball (Pitching, Hitting, Defense) couldn't get the "R" for Runs going in their first game as Zach Rustad, Charlie Linder, and Thomas Polzin scattered 1-hit a piece - with Polzin hitting a triple. Nick Pilz lead the way with a triple and a single, and threw 4.2 IP, yileding just 1 earned run.
PHD did have the "D" for Defense today. 2015 CF Sam Mustar made the play of the day while laying out to make a web gem catch on a sinking liner.
PHD matched the Hitters with 5 hits a piece, but Hitters' 2015 grad Dustin Landers was the difference - going CG shutout with 7 punchouts and scattering 5 hits. Landers pounded the strike zone (66 of his 100 pitches were strikes). Landers sat 80-82mph with his fastball for the majority of the game.
PHD would threaten in the top of the 7th and load the bases with 2 outs, but Landers was able to induce a bases loaded groundout to 1B to seal the game.
The difference in this one was strikeouts and walks. Hitters lineup combined for just 1 strikeout at the plate, while PHD struck out 7 times.
SOUTH OAKLAND As 7, MINNESOTA STARZ BLACK 1
The nightcap game featured plenty of action - starting with the weather. A short rain delay slowed things down in the 3rd. But it didn't stop the South Oakland As (Michigan) from scoring throughout the game. The A's posted runs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th innings to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
The Minnsota Starz Black had a big threat in the bottom half of the 5th with a bases loaded, 1 out opportunity. But the inning yielded just 1 run and kept the game on the As side. Although the Starz trailed 4-1 at that point, they had out-hit the A's 6-4 through those 5 innings and squandered a potential opportunity for themselves to take control of the game on the scoreboard.
The As would eventually add 3 more runs in the 7th to put the game away.
Luke Hargis got the start for the As and pitched 4 innings of shutout baseball. Dugan Darnell relieved him. Neither of them could get the Starz 2016 leadoff hitter Tyler Hollister out until his last AB resulted in a flyout- who went 3 for 4 on the game. Starz 3-hole 2016 grad Trevor Moses went 2 for 3, but they wouldn't get much help in this game. Joey Handley chipped in 1-hit, giving the top 3 batters in the Starz order a 6 for 10 day offensively.
Caleb Balgaard lead the way offensively for the As, with the 2017 grad going 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored out of the leadoff spot. Balgaard will enter high school this year and impressed PW Scouts with his offensive ability on day 1.
Joey Handley got the loss on the mound but had a solid performance going 6 innings, scattering 4 runs, on 5 hits. He punched out 7 batters.