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May 18, 2012 | 08:18 PMWILMOT - It may have only been his second start on the mound all season, but Badger junior Travis Stahulak sure looked like a veteran hurler Friday night against conference-leading Wilmot.
Stahulak allowed two runs in six innings, and the Badger bats backed him up in a 5-3 Southern Lakes Conference victory in Wilmot.
With the win, Badger improved to 8-5 in the SLC and one game back of both Wilmot and Burlington, which lost Friday to Westosha Central.
With another win over Wilmot at home Tuesday, the Badgers can at least earn a share of the SLC title.
If Badger beats the Panthers and Burlington loses to Westosha Tuesday, all four teams would finish 9-5 in conference. However, Central would win the tie-breaker, having beaten all three teams twice.
Badger, which features mostly juniors and finished 2-12 in the SLC a year ago, has enjoyed a tremendous turnaround.
Stahulak knew this tight-knit group could be this good all along.
"We had a good idea we would be up there in the conference," he said after the game. "We knew people would take us lightly. We have been playing together since we were 7 years old. We have great team chemistry, and we know each other really well."
Stahulak worked the corners all game Friday with a strong fastball and kept Panther hitters guessing with a menacing slider.
"Stu (Stahulak) really stepped up," Zweifel said. "He has been a real big surprise this year. He was never really a starter until now. He's just wanted the ball in his hand."
The Badgers and Panthers know each other well. Players from both sides have played Genoa City baseball together in the summers, and there's no doubt Badger will have bragging rights at least until Tuesday.
"The guys are texting each other all the time," Zweifel said. "It's always a fun game to play these guys."
Badger had plenty of fun on the field Friday.
Eric Skipper's RBI double in the second inning gave Badger a 1-0 lead.
After Stahulak struck out two batters in the bottom of the second, Badger's Jason Marquez singled and scored from third base on a passed ball to make it 2-0 in the third.
Wilmot cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the frame.
But Stahulak weathered the Wilmot attack, notching two more strikeouts in the fourth.
"My slider was working," Stahulak said. "I was getting ahead of hitters and hitting the outside corner with my two-seam (fastball). I tried to mix off-speed stuff to their big hitters."
Badger busted things open in the top of the sixth. Three straight RBI singles from Ian Weber, Skipper and Trent Bobula gave Badger a commanding 5-1 lead. All three runs came with two outs.
Wilmot scored single tallies in the sixth and seventh, but Skipper closed the door on the Panthers in the seventh.
With two outs and a runner at second base, Skipper induced a ground out to third to end the game.
"The big sixth inning all started when Zeinert reached base on a strikeout that got away from the catcher," Zweifel said. "We got some clutch two-out hits and took advantage. It was good to see us hit their ace. And it was big that Skipper threw strikes. Everyone's stepping up."