Legion baseball: Virtues homer, Mielke’s start lead Oconto Falls to win

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Peetz holds off Denmark in 7th inning
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Oconto Falls’ Sam Virtues follows through after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning of a Legion game against Denmark on July 1 in Oconto Falls. (Times Herald photo by Morgan Rode)

A clutch hit combined with a strong start and finish on the mound was just the recipe needed to help the Oconto Falls Legion baseball team knock off Denmark and also move on from a couple of tough games at the Diamond Cat Tournament.

Sam Virtues belted a three-run homer to cap Oconto Falls four-run third inning and the pitching duo of starter Tyler Mielke and closer Connor Peetz made the runs hold up in the 4-3 win over Denmark on July 1 in Oconto Falls.

Virtues blast came with the game tied and one out in the frame, scoring Tucker Bouche and Peetz.

“The third pitch he was probably going to go upstairs with me again but he made a mistake and left it down the middle, right about at the knees, and I just gave it a nice, easy swing and gave it a ride,” said Virtues, recalling the at-bat.

Earlier in the inning, Mason Sefcik scored on a single from Peetz. Bouche also singled in the inning.

Mielke was able to work around several baserunners and allow just one second-inning run in what turned into a five-inning outing.

Mielke stranded three runners to end the threat in the second. He also stranded a runner in the third, two in the fourth and another in the fifth.

Mielke utilized the defense behind him, striking out just two batters along the way.

“When somebody got on or in scoring position at second or third, I just tried to listen to my catcher (Mitch Manns) was telling me and try to hit the zone,” said Mielke, who said he was energized by Virtues go-ahead homer. “Our guys on defense did a really good job fielding what came to them.”

Oconto Falls turned the ball over to Virtues in the sixth, but with steady rain falling at the time, the righty was only able to get one out before Peetz came on.

With the bases loaded, Peetz struck out the first batter he faced for the second out of the inning. But Denmark came through, as its next batter delivered a two-RBI single to cut Oconto Falls lead to just one.

After walking the next batter, Peetz got a flyout to end the frame.

A walk opened the top of the seventh for Denmark, putting the tying on and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. After the Diamond Cat Tournament saw Oconto Falls surrender a pair of leads, including one in the seventh inning, thoughts of that game could have crept into the heads of the Oconto Falls players.

Instead, Peetz buckled down on the mound, retiring the next three batters to seal a nice bounce back win for Oconto Falls.

Denmark sacrifice bunted the walked batter to second, but Peetz struck out the next hitter before inducing a weak groundout to second for the final out.

“We kind of had a rough weekend (at the tournament), those two games really didn’t help our confidence,” Peetz said. “But to come back and play a good game against Denmark, who is a good team, it felt pretty good to get this one.”

Coach Joe Sefcik wondered after the rough ending to the tournament in Clintonville how the team might respond in the games to follow.

The coach was pleased at how the team handled the situation and was able to get right back on track against a solid Denmark club.

“We’ve been there and done that (lost late leads) and we didn’t want to do it again,” coach Sefcik said. “They know what to do and it looked like it tonight.

“I hope those games are behind them. In baseball, you have to go out and make the next play and the same thing with the next game. These guys have a lot to look forward to and have been playing solid all year.”

Aside from the four-run third, Oconto Falls had a few other opportunities to get on the scoreboard, but couldn’t find an opening in the defense.

Peetz and Virtues each singled with two down in the first inning, but a fielder’s choice groundout ended the frame. Mason Sefcik came through with a two-out hit in the fourth, but another fielder’s choice ended the potential rally.

Peetz legged out an infield single in the fifth. In the sixth, Joseph Rost had a pinch-hit single before Dylan Nelson singled with one out. Both innings came to an end after a popout followed by groundouts.