Monday, July 27, 2015

Rebels Sweep Raiders

The Genesee Rebels won two big baseball games on Sunday afternoon when the Rome Raiders came to town. The Rebels received two stellar pitching performances, nearly flawless defense, and timely hitting on the way towards notching their 8th and 9th victories on the year. The two wins have the Rebels sitting firmly in 3rd place in the Southwest Division with 3 games to go. They are only a half game behind the East Troy Express who they play next Sunday. That game will be incredibly important for determining home field advantage in the playoffs.

The story of Game 1 was an excellent defensive performance by the Rebels. Matt DeMarais took the mound for the Rebels and turned in a stellar performance. He retired the first 9 batters he faced before having to pitch out of a one out, 1st and 3rd jam in the 4th inning. The 4th inning would give the Raiders their best chance to score as they placed their only runner of the game in scoring position before two pop-outs ended the threat. Only 4 Raiders reached base the entire game thanks to a few diving catches by the Rebels and a well called game behind the plate by veteran catcher Andy Sturtevant. On the day, DeMarais would strike out 7 Rome hitters and allow only three hits.

With the Rebels playing solid defense, they knew they had to score at least one run for a chance at the win. The first three innings saw the Rebels feeling frustrated at the plate as they placed a runner in scoring position in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd inning but could not come up with the big two-out hit. Genesee finally got on the board in the 4th inning when Andy Sturtevant led off with a single and was moved to third on back-to-back fielder's choice groundouts which brought up Chris Theisen. Theisen smashed a hard ground ball towards second that was too hot to handle for the Raider second baseman allowing Sturtevant to score.

The Rebels would get three more runs in the 5th as they took advantage of two walks to get runners on first and second. With two outs, Andy Sturtevant delivered a big two-run double that scored Bauer and Elliott. Sturtevant moved to third on the throw home and scored on the next pitch as it skidded to the back stop. The Rebels would add to their lead in the 6th as Bourassa and Theisen each crossed the plate to give them a final score of 6-0.

Game 2 was almost a carbon copy of game one. This time, it was Keith Koehn who turned in the excellent pitching performance. He was also helped out by stellar defense behind him including the Land O Lakes debut of catcher Nathan Labott who just finished his high school career with the Waukesha West Wolverines. Labott provided and immediate boost to the Rebels as he did not allow a single ball to the backstop and threw out the first runner who tried to steal on him. Koehn found himself in a bases loaded jam with one out in the second inning before inducing an inning-ending double play ball. He would only allow one run on the day while striking out 4 on his way to the complete game victory.

Just as in game one, the defense came up huge. First baseman Chris Elliott made a diving play on a hard smash down the line that would have easily made ESPN's Top 10 list while outfielders Chris Theisen and Mike Hodel added sliding catches of their own. Despite the random and extremely awkward hops that Genesee Town Park provides to ground balls, the Rebels held their own and helped keep the Raiders off the board.

Offensively, the Rebels got on the board in the 3rd when rookie Nathan Labott scored on a Keith Koehn triple to the wall. They would get one more in the fourth before putting the game out of reach with a 5-run 5th inning. The Rebels would knock four doubles in the 5th inning alone as the first five batters to come up scored. The 7 runs would be more than enough for the Rebels to put the short-handed Raiders out of their misery.

The two wins for the Rebels gave them the potential to move up on 2nd place East Troy, however, the Express were able to eek out two extra-inning wins against Burlington to hold steady ahead of Genesee. First place Waterford also escaped disaster by pulling off a double-header sweep of Dousman by the close scores of 9-7 and 4-2 to remain alone atop the standings with a 12-1 record.

As it stands now, there appears to be two races to keep an eye on as the season winds down. Waterford seems to have a lock on a first place finish and automatic bid to the Grand Championships. While they could lose two of their last three to end with a potential tie with East Troy, that scenario is extremely unlikely.

Directly behind Waterford, however, there is an interesting battle for second place. East Troy sits with a record of 9-3 and the Rebels sit at 9-4. The two of them play next Sunday. Genesee won the previous match up this year, so the Express will be looking for revenge. The second and third seed will each earn at least one home playoff game while the second seed could clinch home field advantage for both rounds.

Behind the Rebels, there are three teams who each have 7 losses on the year. North Prairie, Oconomowoc, and Burlington will be fighting tooth and nail to save their seasons and clinch a playoff birth. With only the top 5 teams in the division earning playoff births this year, one of these teams will end the season on the outside. Burlington and Oconomowoc face off on August 8th which very well could be the determining game as the season winds down.

With three games remaining, the Rebels need only 1 victory to clinch a playoff birth and a home game in round one of the playoffs. They would much rather end the season with the 2 seed and home field advantage throughout. They will need to continue to play flawless over the remaining three games as East Troy has shown no signs of letting up. Whatever games you are watching, the final three weeks of the season promises to be exciting for the Southwest Division.

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