Baseball squeezes out win

By Brian Earle

Baseball was able to even up its season series with UW-Milwaukee as it came away with a 3-2 victory Wednesday at Ralph McKinzie Field.

The Huskies (11-28-1) secured the victory behind their errorless play on defense and their go-ahead run late in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Third baseman Carl Russell drew a leadoff walk to get the bottom of the eighth inning started and advanced to second base when Milwaukee pitcher Gunnar Eastman threw a wild pitch.

Eastman followed that up by walking outfielder Landon Tenhagen and in the process throwing a wild pitch on ball four, allowing Russell to move up to third base. The next batter, outfielder Alex Smith, struck out, but Tenhagen stole second base in the process to take away a chance at a double play.

That brought catcher Joe Battaglia to the plate. He laid down a squeeze bunt as Russell broke for home plate on the pitch, allowing him to cross the plate safely, putting the Huskies up 3-2.

“Joe is a good handler with the bat,” said coach Ed Mathey. “He’s a good bunter. He was trained well growing up and he has the ability to do that. Between the two of them, Carl being a good runner, I thought their timing and the execution was excellent. They didn’t give it away too soon, and if you do it that way you just have to get the bunt down, and Joe did a great job with it.”

The Panthers struck first in the top of the third inning when they got to starter Justin Ruckman. Second baseman Mike Porcaro led the inning off with a triple to deep left-center field and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by left fielder Ryan McShane.

That was the lone run surrendered by Ruckman, as he pitched three innings while giving up five hits and striking out four batters. Ruckman struck out the side in the top of the first inning.

“I thought Jordan did all right,” Mathey said. “… I thought he threw the ball all right. The only other thing for him was he got up there in pitches. He was at that 60 mark and we wanted to make sure we had him for the weekend.”

The Huskies pushed their first runs across in the sixth inning, when they scored two to take a 2-1 lead.

With the bases loaded, catcher Johnny Zubek made contact with Milwaukee catcher Mitch Ghelfi’s catcher’s mitt and was called for catcher’s interference. That put Zubek on first base and allowed everyone to move up one base, driving in first baseman Brandon Mallder.

Micah McCulloch came up to pinch hit for center fielder Jason Gasser and drew a walk, scoring shortstop Brian Sisler from third base.

The Panthers tied the game, 2-2, in the top of the seventh inning when McShane singled to right field, driving in Porcaro from second.

From there, pitcher Ben Neumann came in and silenced the Panthers’ bats for 1.2 innings, earning him the win. Neumann didn’t allow a single base runner and struck out three batters. Pitcher Matt Williams came on in the ninth inning to close out the game and secure his second save of the season.