McFarland got off to a fast start, with a six-run first inning in which 11 Spartans got to bat, and never looked back in a five-inning 14-1 playoff-opening win over the Monroe Cheesemakers.
Stoughton High School hosted the WIAA Baseball Tournament Regional opener, a familiar location for Monroe since they play there once per season as a member of the Badger South. It's also a short drive down Highway 51 for McFarland.
Monroe, as the visiting team and #6 seed in the regional, got a leadoff hit from freshman Tyler Matley to start off the contest on a positive note. Matley, who played junior varsity all season and had only four varsity at-bats prior to Thursday afternoon, would advance to second on a fielder's choice groundout by Hunter Ward, but no further as McFarland pitcher Brett Strode struck out the other two batters in the top half of the first inning to keep the Cheesemakers off the board.
Third-seeded McFarland, who finished fourth in the rugged Rock Valley, led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple from Reece Samuel. Two pitches later, Samuel scored on a passed ball to give McFarland a quick 1-0 lead. Monroe pitcher Jared Baumgartner walked the next two batters, and McFarland catcher Brady Butler loaded the bases with a single.
Brett Strode, the fifth batter of the half-inning, doubled in two runs to make it 3-0 McFarland. The very next batter, Cade Werwinski, singled in two more runs to make it 5-0 Spartans. Werwinski would score on a sacrifice fly four batters later by McFarland's original leadoff hitter, Samuel, to extend the lead to 6-0 before Monroe recorded the third and final out of the inning, 11 batters in.
For the second straight inning, a Cheesemaker advance to second base. This time, it was the old-fashioned way: a two-out double by Payton Stauffacher. Stauffacher scored, technically, on a stolen base as McFarland's infield got confused after a ball popped away from the catcher, and the runner at first made a play for second. This allowed Stauffacher to score, but Monroe's runner was thrown out on the basepaths trying to take third to end the inning. Still, Monroe got one back to make it 6-1 McFarland.
In the bottom of the second inning, Illinois State recruit Nick Herbst drew his second walk of the game, as Monroe pitchers threw him nothing but pitches outside for all of his at-bats. Butler singled to move up the runner, and Strode hit his second two-RBI double in as many innings to increase McFarland's lead to 8-0 with both Herbst and Butler scoring. Strode would come around to score on a sac-fly by Austin Ackerman to make the lead 9-1 McFarland. The inning ended on an incredible diving grab by freshman Max Golembiewski in left field on a shallow line drive.
Monroe's top half of the third inning started off with Golembiewski getting a single, and advanced to second on a passed ball. However, a grounder to the pitcher got him thrown out at third, and ended the Cheesemakers threat in the third inning to keep the score 9-1 McFarland.
In the bottom of the third, after another flyout to left field by McFarland, the next five Spartans registered a hit, tacking on four more runs to extend the lead to 13-1. This represented the top half of the order for McFarland, who would mostly finish the afternoon at this juncture a combined 10-for-11 batting with 12 runs scored (including courtesy runners), nine RBI, two walks, three doubles, a triple, and a sacrifice fly for good measure.
The top half of the fourth, Monroe went down in order, 1-2-3. McFarland drew a leadoff walk with substitute Xavier Schreiber in the bottom of the fourth, who would score two batters later on an error by Monroe to make the lead 14-1.
Down to their final three outs of the 2018 season, Monroe didn't go away quietly, as late substitute and senior John Fuller, playing in his last-ever varsity contest as a Cheesemaker, doubled and eventually reached third, but was stranded by an infield pop-up and a called strikeout to end the game after five innings.
-As mentioned, the battling line for the top five hitters (starters) in the order for McFarland went 10-11 batting, scoring a dozen runs, hitting nine RBIs, a triple, three doubles, a sacrifice fly, and drew two walks.
-Illinois State recruit Nick Herbst was 1-for-1 with two drawn walks, but scored three runs and stole a base.
-Monroe's starting bottom-of-the-order hitters each only saw one plate appearance apiece, but went 3-for-3 with a stolen base and a run scored. The rest of the team combined for one hit in 13 tries.
-Monroe's starting outfield, all JV players with a combined 12 at-bats and 14 plate appearances this season, went 2-for-5 in the contest. Two of the three were freshmen, including the top two hitters in their order.
-All three of Monroe's pitchers in the game had the first name "Jared" (Baumgartner, Cline, Dillon).
Final: McFarland 14, Monroe 1 (5 Innings)
WP: McFarland/Brett Strode (4IP, 1R, 4H, 5K)
LP: Monroe/Jared Baumgartner (1IP, 8R, 6H, 3BB, 1K)
Monroe: 1B Payton Stauffacher 1-1, 2B, SB, R; C Trevor Meier 1-1, LF Max Golembiewski 1-1, CF Tyler Matley 1-2.
McFarland: P Brett Strode 3-3, 2 2B, 5 RBI, SB, 2 R; SS Reece Samuel 2-2, 3B, SB, 2 R, RBI; CF Nick Herbst 1-1, 3 R, 2 BB, SB; C Brady Butler 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; 3B Cade Werwinski 1-3, 2 RBI, R.
Time Of Game: 1:31
First Pitch: 4:55 p.m.
Weather: 86 degrees, mostly sunny, wind S 5-10 (out to left)
Location: Stoughton High School, Stoughton, Wis.