Jack Brown was waiting for this game.
And he delivered.
Memorial’s senior righthander pitched the Big Rivers Conference championship race into a wide open affair Tuesday night at Carson Park, blanking North 3-0 in one of the state’s most competitive baseball rivalries. It came before an estimated crowd of more than 500 fans.
Brown allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out 10 in six innings, getting one inning of help from Tanner Kohlhepp as the Abes mounted a 74-70 advantage in the series since 1963.
“I was excited about playing the game and was looking forward to it,” Brown said. “I threw mostly fastballs and my curve came on in the late innings.”
The Old Abes (10-3) scored the only run they needed in the first and added insurance tallies in the third and sixth.
The win moved Memorial (5-2) one game behind North (6-1) in the conference race that also includes Chippewa Falls and River Falls with three losses.
And the two city teams will meet again Thursday.
“We’re looking ahead to Thursday,” Brown said. “If we win and win out, that would really be nice.”
Memorial coach Dan Roehl said Kohlhepp will see some innings Thursday and he also has Austin Selz and Vince Trapani. North coach Bob Johnson said Carter Hesselman will likely get the call for the Huskies.
“What was impressive about Brown is that he didn’t have his breaking ball until the fifth or sixth innning,” Roehl said. “He was spotting his fastball and just competed.”
Brown allowed only one runner to third base and one other as far as second.
“He’s the best pitcher in the conference,” North’s Johnson said. “We knew the competition was cranking up and we knew they were a good baseball team.”
Brown gave up a one-out double to Jeffrey Pippenger in the first but was able to retire the next two dangerous batters. The other hit was a leadoff double by Sam Stange in the sixth but Brown took the next three batters, some of the best in the conference, on strikes.
“It was nice to see Jack do that to the No. 1 hitting team in the conference,” Roehl said. “But we know North is a better hitting team than that.”
Cooper Kapanke once again was the hitting star for the Abes with two singles. He drove across an unearned run in the first and then plated the singling Kohlhepp in the third. Draeson Marcoux drove in the third run with a double in the sixth.
Johnson had no argument with his pitching. Ryan Venne went the first four innings and was followed by Stange and Jack Kron.
“Their first run was unearned and the second came on an in-betweener,” Johnson said. “He’s still flirting with the 50-60 pitch count. And Stange and Kron came on and did a good job.”
It was the pitch count that ended Brown’s night. He was at 93 going into the seventh when Roehl brought on Kohlhepp.
Marcoux, Kohlhepp and Kapanke each got two hits in Memorial’s seven hit attack. The other hit was a double by freshman Trapani.
“Kapanke is a student of the game,” Roehl said. “He studies the pitchers.”