Catcher Peter Krien is batting .333 for Badger this season.
April 18, 2012 | 07:48 AMJEFFERSON — Last year through six games, the Badger baseball squad was 0-6 and struggling at the plate.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
Through six games this spring, Badger is 4-2 and 2-0 in the Southern Lakes Conference. With a pitching staff that goes five deep and boasts a 4.38 earned-run average, the junior-rich Badgers are also hitting well as a team. Badger coach Aaron Zweifel said varsity experience and chemistry have been keys.
"It helps that they have a year under their belts," he said. "They played summer ball and fall ball together. They are physically stronger with more experience. It's been a lot of fun so far. I've been really happy with our pitching. Mentally, there is a night and day difference from last year."
Last week, the Badgers started off the conference season on the right foot, with home and road victories against Union Grove.
However, on Friday, the local bats were silenced by Jefferson left-handed pitcher Zach Peachey. The tall senior struck out nine and held Badger to three hits in a 5-0 loss.
Badger junior Ian Weber made his first start of the season on the hill, going four innings and only allowing two earned runs. The Eagles scored two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings to pull away.
Badger struggled defensively, committing three errors for the game.
"We ran into a three-year starter, a big lefty that throws hard," Zweifel said. "In the long run, we're better off because we faced such a solid pitcher."
Badger's Mitch Jensen, Jason Marquez and Ian Weber each had one hit.
Jensen leads the club with a .500 batting average. Zweifel has been impressed with the junior.
"He's been on a tear," Zweifel said. "Mitch can play every single infield position. It's nice because he can sub in for Eric Skipper (shortstop) and Weber (second base)."
Junior catcher Peter Krien and Marquez are both hitting .333 on the young season.
"Peter is batting third, and I've been impressed with his approach," Zweifel said. "He's real disciplined. Also, Jason has been able to bat at the top of the order and at the No. 9 spot, so when he drops down it's like we have two leadoff batters."
Badger continues SLC play this week against Westosha Central. The Badgers traveled to Paddock Lake Tuesday, and the Falcons visit Jonas Field Thursday. This season in the SLC, teams play in mini home-and-home series. Teams play back-to-back at each other's home fields. Zweifel enjoys the new format.
"I like playing back-to-back," he said. "You can't stack your rotation for one team. It's a cool idea and it will determine a true SLC champ."
As for the Falcons Thursday, Zweifel said he's confident his team will compete.
"We need to shore up our defense," he said. "But our guys are all friends. They have this air about them. Even if they get down, they know they will score and they don't panic."
Badger 4, Union Grove 1
On April 12 at home, Badger beat the Broncos for the second time in three days.
Down 1-0, the Badgers rallied for three runs in the fourth and held on for the victory. Weber popped up to the shortstop to lead off, but the ball was dropped and a hustling Weber reached second base. With two strikes, Colton Andresen moved Weber over to third with a clutch sacrifice bunt. An errant throw to first allowed Weber to score and Andresen to take second. After Travis Stahulak executed a hit-and-run to put runners on first and second, Peter Krien and Jonah Zeinert both walked, giving Badger a 3-1 lead.
Union Grove, which committed three errors for the game to Badger's zero, allowed another bases-loaded walk in the sixth, which plated Badger's final run.
Skipper earned the win on the mound, recording two strikeouts and allowing one earned run, a homer to the game's first batter, while scattering six hits and only walking one.
Travis Stahulak earned the save, striking out five in three scoreless innings.
"Everybody is pitching in from the mound," Zweifel said. "We only have 12 players, but six or seven pitch."
Jensen went 2-for-4 to pace the Badgers, and Zeinert added a hit and two RBIs.
Badger 5, Union Grove 1
On April 10, Andresen showed why he is the staff ace with a six-strikeout, five-hit complete game dominance of the Broncos in Union Grove.
"Colton pitched well, but he far from being on his 'A' game," Zweifel said. "He was able to battle and get out of innings."
Krien knocked a two-run blast in the first inning to give Badger a 2-0 lead. Then, Badger put the game out of reach with a two-run third inning. With runners on first and third with one out, Krien stole second. A throw to second allowed Jensen, who singled to lead off the inning, to score from third. Then, Trent Bobula gave Badger a 4-1 advantage with an RBI double to score Krien.