SUN PRAIRIE — Janesville Craig senior right-hander Mitchell Woelfle already knew he faced a stern test against the Sun Prairie baseball team.
When he saw how hard the wind was blowing to right field, Woelfle realized that matters would be further complicated for the pitchers and fielders in Friday’s Big Eight Conference game.
“You’ve got to change your game a little bit,” said Woelfle, a U.S. Air Force Academy commit. “You can’t go out there throwing it as hard as you can every pitch. … The breaking ball worked better. You really have to work low. The ball is going to fly farther out here. I think you could tell with the pop flies. They were really carrying.”
It was a wind-blown battle, but Woelfle managed to scatter 10 hits over seven innings in a 6-2 complete-game victory for the conference-leading Cougars (9-0, 7-0 Big Eight), ranked second in Division 1 in the state coaches’ poll.
“His breaking ball got sharper as the game went along,” Craig coach Victor Herbst said.
“I felt like I was picking up speed as (the game) was going on,” Woelfle said after earning his fifth victory this season. “My breaking ball had a higher spin rate. I was able to spot it better out there.”
Woelfle primarily threw curveballs and fastballs — choosing not to use his splitter — in the 95-pitch outing. And his teammates played solid defense and came up with timely hits in turning aside the Cardinals (5-5, 4-3) for the second time this week. Craig, behind pitcher Micah Overley, blanked Sun Prairie 10-0 Tuesday.
“It was great progress,” Sun Prairie coach Rob Hamilton said. “That guy (Woelfle) is a Division I pitcher and we put up 10 hits on him, and Tuesday we put up one hit. I feel we made some really good strides offensively. And we also hit some balls really hard right at people that could have changed this game around. But that’s baseball. We couldn’t make the big play when we needed to, and they did. So, you have to give them credit.”
The Cougars broke open a tight game with three runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Senior first baseman Overley’s bases-loaded groundout to second drove in a run, boosting Craig’s lead to 4-2 against Cardinals reliever Matt DePrey. Senior left fielder Tressin Kussmaul then singled to left, knocking in two more runs and giving Woelfle breathing room.
“I thought Mitchell was outstanding today,” said Herbst, whose team has outscored opponents 88-11. “It’s tough to come into Sun Prairie and get W’s here. … I was proud of how my team competed on the road. We were up 3-2 and when we came back with three in the sixth, I thought it was huge for us — having a four-run cushion to finish, instead of a one-run cushion.”
Sun Prairie pulled within 3-2 with two runs in the fourth.
Cardinals sophomore third baseman Liam Moreno, who had two hits, singled to open the inning and scored on DePrey’s double to right-center. Sun Prairie scored again on senior shortstop Robbie Knorr’s sacrifice fly.
But the Cardinals’ bid to tie the game in the fourth ended when pinch runner Carson Fluno was called out at the plate on a double-steal attempt.
Craig senior shortstop Dan Blomgren, a Michigan commit, delivered a one-out double to the right-center field gap and drove in the game’s first run in the top of the first inning.
The Cougars scored twice more against sophomore Payton Jenkins, the Sun Prairie starter, in the second inning.
Senior designated hitter Ryan Herbst, the coach’s son, walked to open the inning and freshman third baseman Gavin Kilen, who’s orally committed to Louisville, followed with a double into the left-field corner.
Senior second baseman Jacob Hesseling’s groundout to short knocked in a run. Junior center fielder Eric Hughes’ two-out RBI double to left on a 1-2 pitch increased the Cougars’ lead to 3-0.
Sun Prairie, which bounced back from Tuesday’s loss at Craig with a 6-0 victory over Janesville Parker on Wednesday, was scheduled to host Craig on Thursday. But cold and inclement weather forced the game to be moved to Friday.
Janesville Craig 120 003 0 — 6 7 1
Sun Prairie 000 200 0 — 2 10 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — JC: Woelfle (W; 7-10-2-1-3); SP: Jenkins (L; 2-4-3-3-1); DePrey (4-3-0-3-4); Wendler (1-0-0-0-1).
Leading hitters — JC: Hughes 2x5. 2B — Blomgren, Hughes, Kilen. SP: Bartel 2x4, Moreno 2x3, Shepard 2x3, Halblieb 2x3. 2B — DePrey. 3B — Bartel.