Panthers sweep Wrightstown in doubleheader

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Oconto Falls completes 6-run comeback in Game 1

Greg Bates Times Herald Correspondent

The last time the Oconto Falls baseball team swept a doubleheader was 2015.

The Panthers erased a two-year drought on Saturday by racking up 20 runs on 20 hits in a pair of North Eastern Conference victories, 10-8 and 10-6, over visiting Wrightstown.

A sweep wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for a big-time comeback in Game 1. Oconto Falls trailed 8-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning before scoring eight runs and sending 12 batters to the plate.

“It’s kind of nice for our kids,” Oconto Falls coach Charlie Rochon said about the sweep. “We battled back in the first one when that was looking kind of bleak at best. All of a sudden we started putting some hits together and got some aggressive base running and all of a sudden we’re up 10-8. It’s like, ‘What happened?’”

What happened is the Panthers’ bats came alive. Eight of the first nine hitters on the inning reached – five hits and three walks. Rochon had already inserted in replacement players into the lineup earlier in the game, but that didn’t seem to matter.

“At that point, I’m already looking forward to the second game to be honest,” Rochon said. “We were missing some kids today, so you do what you do. You substitute guys in and you mix and match, and it worked out for us.”

Game 1 was tied 1-1 after two innings when Wrightstown (4-12, 2-11 NEC) went to work in the third against Oconto Falls pitcher Sam Virtues. Michael Griesbach had a two-run double and Payton Just had the big blow, a two-run home run to put the Tigers up 7-1.

Oconto Falls (4-9, 3-7 NEC) trailed 8-2 in the sixth when Kamdan Bloom walked to lead off and Dalton Curl and Virtues had back-to-back singles to load the bases. Brett Proctor hit a two-run single and Mason Sefcik added an RBI single. Bloom picked up an RBI in his second plate appearance of the inning, and Curl tallied a two-run single to make it 10-8.

Cliff Yuma threw the final three innings for Oconto Falls and picked up the win.

Wrightstown stranded four runners on base in the final four innings. The loss certainly deflated the Tigers.

“Give them credit, they hit the ball and we made some mistakes,” Wrightstown coach Boyd Zastrow said. “I think we had a little hangover from that game into the second game. We hit the ball hard and they made a lot of good plays. The key thing is when you’ve got people down 8-2, we have to learn how to finish people.”

Do you feel like you stole a victory in Game 1, coach?

“Yes, I do, to be honest,” Rochon said. “They really had command and they were up 8-2, and they were sailing along and all of a sudden the bottom fell out. I kind of feel bad for them to have that happen, because they’re kind of in the same boat that we are. So to have that happen, it’s kind of demoralizing.”

Oconto Falls didn’t slow down at the plate to start Game 2 as Michael Manns’ double to left-center quickly made it 2-0.

“We came out swinging in the second game and putting up runs in the first and second innings,” Rochon said. “We kind of hit the skids there for a little bit, and it’s kind of like, ‘Don’t do that, because you saw what happened to them.’”

The Panthers took advantage of three Wrightstown errors in the second inning to put up six runs. Proctor reached on an error to start things off and Jake Foster and Yuma both singled as Proctor scored. Jason Moeller got on via an error and Michael VerVelde ripped a two-run single to put Oconto Falls up 5-0. Moeller scored on a wild pitch and VerVelde and Manns both scored on an error.

Wrightstown scored twice in the second and Oconto Falls answered with two in the fifth. The Panthers loaded the bases after hits by Virtues and Proctor and a walk by Foster. Tigers starting pitcher Logan Zastrow was pulled for Michael Griesbach. Virtues came home on a double play and Proctor scored on a Moeller base hit.

With the game seemingly in hand at 10-3 entering the seventh, Sefcik stayed in to try and get a complete game. The Tigers scored three runs and loaded the bases with two out. Sefcik closed out his eight-hit victory by inducing a fly out by Tyler Theunis.

“They had me squirming,” Rochon said. “I was like, ‘Holy crap, they’re going to return the favor in the second game.’”

Sefcik, the team’s ace, finished with four strikeouts and was stretched thin at 98 pitches.

Manns had a nice doubleheader as the freshman had four hits. Proctor and Virtues added three hits apiece. Ten different players had hits on the day for Oconto Falls.

“It’s a bunch of guys that are starting to believe a little and maybe buy into what we’re doing with two-strike hitters, because we had some two-strike hits today,” Rochon said. “Overall, it’s a collective thing.”

Game 1

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E

Wrightstown 0 1 6 1 0 0 0 8 6 2

Oconto Falls 0 1 1 0 0 8 x 10 10 1

Game 2

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E

Oconto Falls 2 6 0 0 2 0 0 10 10 5

Wrightstown 0 2 0 0 0 1 3 6 8 6