By Nik Franck
YA 5, Watertown 4
Young America kicked off a tough last week of regular season action with a nice little come from behind win at Watertown last Tuesday. With three straight wins this week, the Cardinals clinched the third seed in the South division playoffs.
YA actually jumped out on top early, when Brandon Stender lofted a deep pop fly to left, banging off the foul pole and giving his team a 1-0 advantage.
After allowing another run to YA, Watertown made its comeback with three runs in the third inning. The Red Devils scored one more in the fourth off of starter Adam Kostecka, to take a 4-2 lead.
Kostecka was lifted in the fifth after allowing a leadoff hit, in favor of JP Schwartz, who had his best outing of the season. Schwartz would hold Watertown scoreless the rest of the game, allowing only three more hits over the last four and one third, striking out seven.
The Cardinals made their big offensive surge in the sixth, scoring three to take a 5-4 lead, holding on for good. Chet Maschke delivered the knockout blow that inning, driving in the tying and go ahead runs on a bases loaded, RBI single. Maschke finished the game with two hits, a walk and three RBIs.
YA 6, Winsted 2
The Cardinals jumped out early in this one and coasted the rest of the way for the easy 6-2 win over North powerhouse Winsted.
The scoring started right away in the first. Jon Werner drove a single that got past the outfielder, then took third base on the play. Stender promptly singled him in for a 1-0 lead. YA would go on to strand the bases loaded that inning, leaving a few runs off the board.
But they got two more in the second. Stender, again the YA sniper, drove another single. This one also got past the outfielder, which allowed Maschke and Werner to run the bases and both score on the play.
YA added three more in the third, highlighted by a two-run single off the bat of Tanner Kohls.
However, the story of this game was starting pitcher Aaron Cook, who showed his best stuff of the year. Cook was able to hold the dangerous Wildcat lineup to only three hits over seven and two third innings of work, striking out eight.
Winsted managed two runs in the ninth off of relief, until Adam Ernst slammed the door on their rally, notching his first save of the year.
YA 4, Hamburg 2
The Cardinals capped off the season with a win, beating the Hawks on Sunday. That win clinches the third seed of next weeks playoffs for YA, in a year where the CRVL South was extremely tough.
The Hawks struck first with a two-out rally. Scott Arganbright and Jeff Hancock got hits off YA starter Nik Franck. They both scored on Brian Crane’s ground ball, when the shortstop’s throw went in the dirt and past the first baseman.
It took until the third inning for the Cardinals to figure out Hawk starter Craig Allison, when they scored three to take the lead. Franck led off with a walk and was followed later by a walk to Cook. Clint Aretz drove in Franck with a single and Wes Willamson drove in both Cook and Aretz with a single down the left field line.
The rest of the game, both teams traded some hits and put a few runners in scoring position, but neither team could get a rally going. YA would add an insurance run in the eighth, when Willamson came through with another RBI single.
Franck pitched seven for YA, striking out seven and only allowing the two unearned runs in the first. Adam Ernst and Schwartz both pitched an inning of relief, Schwartz tabbing the save.
The Cardinals will now turn around and host Hamburg this week in a best two of three series. Game one will be at Hamburg on Wednesday, July 25. Game two is at Young America on Friday, July 27, and if needed game three will be at Young America on Sunday the 29, at 2 p.m. Both night games start at 7:30 p.m.