Monday, July 6, 2015

Szajna Slides Rebels To a Sweep

The Genesee Rebels took advantage of solid pitching performances from Matt DeMarais and Keith Koehn, along with timely hitting, staunch defense, and some crafty baserunning by Brian Szajna to sweep the Burlington Barons in a double-header on Sunday afternoon. Genesee needed all 15 players to extend their winning streak to 5 games by winning two closely contested baseball games. Every single Rebel present was needed to help down the Barons and bring the Rebels into 3rd place in the Southwest Division.

Game 1 saw the Rebels once again jump on their opponents early on in the game. In the first inning, the Rebels loaded the bases but couldn't push a run across. Inning number 2 saw them continue to keep their feet on the gas pedal. Kyle Stasik led off the inning with a towering double to the right center gap and was followed by three straight walks that brought him across the plate. Keith Koehn singled to bring in Nelson Heckenkamp before Chris Elliott flew out to right for the first out of the inning. The Baron's almost got out of the jam before allowing another run but the "fleet-footed" catcher Andy Sturtevant beat out a would-be-inning-ending-double-play to bring rookie Kindall Wincek across for the third run of the inning.

The Barons would get on the board in the bottom of the third when Dylan Friend hit a one-out double down the left field line and scored on a single two at-bats later. But that would be the bulk of their scoring as DeMarais kept them off balance for most of the game.

The Rebels got that run back in the top of the fourth thanks to a Burlington miscue. Koehn and Elliott led off with back-to-back singles. The Baron pitcher calmed down and struck out the next two batters before Lucas Bourassa ripped a ground ball to third that the bounced away from the Burlington defender bringing in Koehn. That would end up being the last run the Rebels would score as the Barons cut down Koehn at the plate in the 6th inning when he tried to score on a passed ball and was called out on a bang-bang play that could have gone either way.

The Barons tried to mount a rally in the 6th with a single and a Hoffman double to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. DeMarais induced a week ground out for out number 1 and Keith Koehn made a marvelous play on a tough hop with a rocket grounder to short for out number 2. The ground ball brought in a Burlington run, but that would prove to be it for the inning as DeMarais struck out the next batter to end the threat. The Barons would again get two base runners in the 7th inning but fail to put a run across as the Rebels defense came up big once again.

The Rebels would leave 14 runners on base in Game 1 as they are still searching for the big 2-out hits to bust games open. Of the 7 hits, Koehn had 4 and Elliott 2. Genesee proved once again that it could win a close game.

Game 2 was a very similar story to Game 1. The Rebels jumped on the Barons early with two runs in the first inning. With two outs, Chris Elliott smashed a double to the wall and was nearly picked off of 2nd as he rounded it a little too hard. When asked about the play he said, "I was feeling fast and thought I could have made it." Maybe next time Chris..... Andy Sturtevant then singled and was followed by an Aaron Dolan single to right that brought in Elliott. Theisen kept the rally going by adding another single which brought in Sturtevant. When the dust cleared, the Rebels had found their 2-out hits knocking four singles before the inning ended.

The Rebels would extend their lead in the 3rd inning thanks to a big Baron mistake. After getting the lead off man out, Burlington pitcher, Richter, hit Elliott and allowed a single to Sturtevant. With one out, it appeared the Barons would turn a double-play to get out of the inning. Dolan hit a grounder to Richter who fired to second base. Both the shortstop and the second baseman were breaking towards the bag and both held up at the same minute. The shortstop caught the ball behind second base and forgot to touch the base before firing it to first. The play at first was bang-bang with Dolan hustling down the line. Instead of turning two to get out of the inning, both runners were safe. The Barons were less than thrilled with the ruling by the umpires that Dolan had beat the throw to first base. There was no argument about the missed base at second, but apparently they felt that Dolan was out by at least 2-4 steps. A lengthy argument ensued with Barons hurtling insults and umping advice from all over the field. At the end of the debate, the Rebels had the bases loaded and the Barons were angry. Chris Theisen took advantage with an RBI fly to deep center which plated Elliott. Richter turned to some little league shenanigans to get the third out. Unbeknownst to him, the Rebels had the perfect runner on second base to fall for the trick. Apparently on tilt, Richter stood on the mound from the windup. Sturtevant's eyes got HUGE on second as he saw a chance to easily steal third. Richter pretended to go into the windup but instead moved his right foot off the rubber. As soon as he moved, Sturtevant bolted for third amidst a chorus of "B-A-C-K" calls from the dugout. It was too little too late as Sturtevant was easily tagged out at third base. The damage had been done as the Rebels now held a 3-run lead.

Burlington would put one run across in the bottom of the third thanks to a tight strike zone and back-to-back walks. Other than that, Koehn was cruising on the mound until the 6th inning. With the Rebels up 3-1, Burlington mounted a charge. After getting the first two outs, it was the Barons who found their 2-out-hits. A single by the nine hitter was followed by a triple to the right field fence and a single up the middle. After being in command for the entire game, Genesee now found themselves tied 3-3 going into the 7th.

It was now the Rebels turn to come up clutch. Brian Szajna stepped into the box as a pinch hitter. After finding himself down 0-2, he hit a weak ground ball to short. Using his speed, he beat out the throw for an infield single. Lucas Bourassa then laid down a textbook sacrifice bunt to move Szajna to 2nd. Matt Bauer flew out to left field to bring up Koehn with two outs. After working the count, Koehn hit another soft chopper towards short. On contact, Szajna bolted for third. As the shortstop charged the ball, Szajna rounded third base and watched for the throw to first. With Koehn hustling down the line, there would be no throw and the short stop did not handle the short-hop cleanly. As the ball tricked away in front of the fielder, Szajna saw his chance. With the catcher meandering towards first to back up the throw, Brian saw the plate unguarded. He turned on the jets and sprinted for home. The catcher realized his mistake and broke for the plate as the short stop fired the ball home. Szajna slid to the right of the plate sticking his left arm out and swiped it across just moments before the tag was slapped down. The winning run had crossed the plate! Now up 4-3, Koehn shut the Barons down in order in the 7th to notch the victory.

The two wins were huge for the Rebels who, after starting the year 0-2, have won 7 of their last 8 to bring their record to 7-3 on the year. It was the depth of the Rebels that proved effective as the starters and substitutions each played their roles to perfection. Another plus side was the amazing crowd that traveled to Burlington with the Rebels. It was great to see such a following and support from family and friends. One super fan even came to the rescue. With the Rebels needing a boost late in game 2, Allie Norgord sprinted across the parking and stormed into Walgreens to retrieve some much-needed water for the Rebels. With the refreshing and spirit-lifting H20 coursing through their bodies, Genesee was able to pull out the victory. Without Norgord, who knows what would have happened.

The Rebels return to action on Sunday, July 12th when they host the Titans of Oconomowoc. First pitch is scheduled for 1:30pm. The Titans are in need of a victory, so the Rebels need to bring their A-game. It's "Youth Day" at the park, so all youngsters in attendance will receive a free popsicle from the concession stand. With one game left before their next bye-week, the Rebels will look to keep their hot streak going.

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