May 16, 2012 | 07:38 AMWATERFORD — It has been a season of ups and downs for the Badger baseball team.
The local boys had a three-game losing streak in the beginning of April followed by a three-game win streak. Then, to start May, the Badgers went on another three-game losing streak.
After a loss May 8, they are back on the winning track.
The Badgers reeled off four straight wins, including two extra-inning thrillers over conference-leading Burlington, and now the local boys are merely a game out of first place.
Badger Aaron Zweifel said it is an exciting time for his team.
"It was a huge week for us," Zweifel said. "What made it even more impressive was the way that it started out on a down note losing to Westosha (Monday). Our big goal at the beginning of the season was to have a shot at the SLC title. To have a legitimate shot with four games left, that's all you can ask for. We've had our ups and downs this year, but we expected that with a young team. They're learning how to win together, and they're on a roll right now."
On Monday night, visiting Badger pounded out 11 hits and overcame a 5-4 deficit to crush Waterford, 12-7, in Southern Lakes action.
The Badgers are now 11-7 overall and 7-4 in the SLC. Waterford dropped to 6-4 overall and 3-8 in conference.
In a back-and-forth contest, Badger scored four runs in the first inning but didn't score again until the fifth. Eric Skipper's two-run double in the fifth gave Badger the lead for good.
In the sixth and seventh, Badger scored three runs each. Peter Krien socked a two-run double in the sixth, and Mitch Jensen added an RBI triple in the frame. It was Krien's seventh straight game with a double.
Waterford committed two errors in the game. Badger stole five bases overall.
"It was big to tack on runs," Zweifel said. "We kept the pressure on Waterford. I'm happy we made them pay for their errors. The middle of the order is hitting well. We got guys on base, and it was nice to manufacture runs."
Colton Andresen was 2-for-5 Monday, and Jonah Zeinert added two hits. Krien finished 2-for-4.
Badger returns home Wednesday to go for the sweep against Waterford. Zweifel said Badger will most likely face Waterford's ace. Badger is a game behind both Burlington and Wilmot (both 8-3).
On Friday, Badger will travel to Wilmot.
"Defensively, we need to make the routine plays and make it easy on our pitchers," Zweifel said.
"Our pitchers will need to get ahead of guys. Our guys have been hungry at the plate and formed their strike zones. We've come a long way. As long as we come mentally prepared every day, that'll be the key. There's no room for slip-ups at this point. The guys are jacked up and believing in each other."
Badgers slay conference leaders
Last Thursday, Badger made it two extra-inning victories in three days at SLC-leading Burlington.
In the top of the 10th inning, Zeinert's RBI single scored Jensen, and the Badgers held on for the victory.
In his second start of the week, Andresen went 6-2/3 innings and struck out six with no walks while allowing three earned runs.
"Andresen had a gutsy performance pitching," Zweifel said.
"He gave us everything he had."
Stahulak tossed the final 3-1/3 innings, earning the win with five strikeouts and only two hits.
Badger sophomore Donald Schnurer, who has six hits in four games since being called up to varsity, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
"We had nothing to lose, and the guys went out and proved a point," Zweifel said. "We talked after the game about laying it all out there every game, having fun and out-scrapping everyone else."
On May 8 at Badger, the local boys won in dramatic fashion.
In a 7-7 tie in the bottom of the ninth, Krien's RBI double plated Jensen for the winning run. Skipper hurled the final five innings for Badger, allowing no earned runs and picking up the win.
"The win was a total team effort," Zweifel said.
Badger scored in six of the nine innings and survived two Burlington home runs.
"To hold Burlington, one of the best offensive teams in the area to seven runs in nine innings Tuesday and then four runs on Thursday, you just can't ask for much better than that," Zweifel said.
"Our defense was also solid all week. Eric Skipper had a great week at shortstop and has solidified the middle infield all year long for us."
Jensen and Krien led the Badger charge with three hits and two RBIs each.
Zeinert and Schnurer each added a hit and an RBI.
Badger 10, Brodhead 0 (six innings)
On Friday, Badger clobbered the visiting Cardinals in nonconference action.
The Badgers put up a six spot in the third and cruised from there.
Krien was 4-for-4 with three doubles and five RBIs, including a three-run double in the third. Stahulak and Andresen added RBI singles in the third, and Ian Weber notched an RBI as well.
Jack Golitz got the rally going with a single.
Weber and Stahulak each finished with two RBIs.
Jason Marquez earned the victory on the mound, striking out three and walking one on three hits in three innings.
Weber pitched in relief, striking out one with one walk and no hits in three innings.