Plum City just needed one run.
They had a feeling that was all they would need because pitcher Tony Garner was dealing.
Caleub Watkins gave the Blues the big hit they needed in the sixth inning to score Lance Johnson, who was stealing on the pitch, from first base to take a 1-0 lead over the Hudson River Rats in a St. Croix Valley Baseball League game. The lead would hold and the Blues would win Saturday, July 15 at Legion Park in Plum City.
After the Blues gave Garner the lead, he fired 11 pitches to the River Rats in the top of the seventh inning, getting swings on 10 of them.
“When Tony is on the mound, we know we aren’t going to need a lot (of runs),” Watkins said. “He’s going to throw a lot of strikes and get a lot of weak contact.”
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Hudson nearly put together a rally in the ninth inning when Garner hit a batter on a 1-2 count with two outs to give the River Rats life. That was followed by a single.
Garner slowed the game down and induced a pop up to get out of the inning and win the game.
“(After that) I just had to take a deep breath and calm down,” Garner said. He was reminded by a fan after the game that the ninth inning can never be a three-up, three-down inning because that wouldn’t be interesting enough, to which, he laughed. “I just needed to throw it across the plate and let the defense go to work again.”
That trust in the defense has been a key to the team’s success, which has placed them right behind Prescott in the South Division standings.
Shawn Ingli, a 26-year-old pitcher for the Blues, said this team is completely different than the Plum City teams he has played on in the past.
“These guys have a desire to win,” Ingli said. “Our defense is playing so well. Our outfield especially, they take away so many base hits.”
“It has taken us awhile to get to this point,” Garner said.
Regular catcher Zach Watkins, who is currently sidelined due to a wrist injury, said the key is that the younger guys are constantly thinking about baseball.
“Last year, we knew they were talented,” Watkins said. “Now, they’re talking baseball with themselves. We don’t have to say anything to them to get them focused. They’re always talking about the plays in the infield and what they can do better.”
Caleub Watkins, one of those young guys, has turned a corner of late for the Blues. Other than the 7-1 loss to Ellsworth on Friday, July 14, he has had multi-hit games in each of the last four games. Whatever the source, whether it’s a simplified swing or a simplified mental approach, it is working.
“I’ve been hitting a lot with my Uncle Zach and he has me just trying to put the barrel of the bat on the ball,” Watkins said.
After defeating Prescott last weekend, Plum City is having conversations about making a run as the season wraps up. That’s a conversation that they haven’t been having for a long time in Plum City.
“They’re talented and they want to play,” Garner said. “We aren’t the best hitting team, but they’re playing good defense and having good at bats.”
When pitching doesn’t let teams score, good at bats can usually scrape together one run.
Sometimes, that’s all Plum City needs.