WIAA D2 baseball: Prescott beats Ellsworth for sectional berth
ELLSWORTH -- Every good team needs to have quality hitters behind its best hitter.
It doesn’t matter how good a hitter is, or how badly that hitter wants to win: if the batter isn’t thrown strikes, he can’t drive in runs.
Ellsworth decided it wasn’t going to let junior Peter Brookshaw, Prescott’s best hitter hurt them. The Panthers intentionally walked Brookshaw twice to take their chances with No. 4-hitter Bo Smith and No. 5-hitter Jake Block.
Smith and Block had two hits each and drove in four runs total for Prescott in its 6-4 victory over Ellsworth in a WIAA D2 prep baseball regional final Wednesday, May 31. With the win, Prescott will play against Ashland Tuesday, June 6 in West Salem at 11 a.m.
“Once again, everyone knows about Peter,” Prescott head coach Jeff Ryan said. “I fully expect Tuesday, at sectionals, the mentality for other teams will be, ‘We’re not going to let Brookshaw beat us.’
“They’re going to make our No. 4 and No. 5 guys beat them and that’s who won us the game today.”
After Ellsworth (15-8) intentionally walked Brookshaw in the fourth inning, Smith gave Prescott (22-5) a 4-2 lead when he flopped a Texas leaguer into left field to score Carson Stenroos, who was the courtesy runner for catcher Joe Roosen.
Block kept the rally going with a two-run, two-out single off of Ryan McGregor, who relieved Owen Matzek.
So, after Brookshaw gets intentionally walked, is there more pressure on the batters behind him?
“A little bit, only because it’s a guy on base and that puts pressure on us to drive him in,” Block said. “But he was going to be on base anyways, so it is kind of the same thing.”
On the other side, it isn’t as though Ellsworth had a poor plan or even that the Panthers poorly executed.
Neither of Smith’s singles were results of solid contact. In the first inning, he hit a cue shot into no-man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the shortstop position. Ellsworth junior Drake Flom made an errant throw trying to make a play and that gave Prescott a 1-0 lead.
Once the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead, Andrew Rozmairek made it difficult for the Panthers to make up the ground all at once.
“They have a nice pitching staff and they have a good defense behind it,” Ellsworth head coach Ryan Christenson said. “If you throw strikes, you can get yourself out of jams. He got into pitcher’s counts and threw good pitches when he got there.”
The Panthers had Rozmairek on the ropes multiple times, but the junior was able to keep any rallies from getting out of control.
In the fifth inning, Ellsworth junior Shane Elsen led off with a first-pitch single into right field. Ryan McGregor smoked a double off the fence in left-center field.
Rozmairek got senior Jacob Sigler to ground out, allowing the Panthers to trim the lead to 6-3. Owen Matzek hit a sacrifice fly to center-fielder Zach Dolan to make the score 6-4.
Rozmairek seemed content letting them chip at the lead, as long as it wasn’t a big inning. He was able to do that by getting ahead in the count.
“That is huge. I’m way better with an 0-1 (count) than a 1-0 (count),” Rozmairek said. “That first pitch is huge because it opens up my whole arsenal. Then I can throw that curveball, or the curveball in the dirt, or the high fastball. It just opens up everything.”
Attacking the zone is how he tight-roped out of the second inning when Sigler led off with one of his three hits; followed by a Matzek double. The Panthers struck out, grounded out and popped out.
As the game went along, Rozmairek channeled the energy of playing against a conference rival in the regional final.
“He looked like he was getting stronger,” Ryan said. “He got a little bit of an adrenaline rush as the game went along.”
That’s how the decision was made to keep him in for the seventh inning instead of handing the ball over to Brookshaw.
“Facing the best part of their lineup, you just have to keep the ball down and throw strikes,” Rozmairek said. “You just have to think everybody has your back and do what I’ve done all year.”
“They had their big boppers, the two-, three-, and four-hitters coming up in the seventh and he said he wanted to finish,” Ryan said. “That’s a lot of moxie for a junior, who I would argue that, for a lot of people in Prescott, he came out of nowhere for us this year.”
Yes, just a junior with a lot of moxie who just pitched his team into the sectionals by beating a rival.