Two of the state’s best took the mound at Fairfax Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t until after both were out of the game that a victor was decided.
Menomonie rode five strong innings from ace pitcher Jace Kressin and held off a late Eau Claire Memorial surge for a 7-6 Big Rivers Conference win.
Two NCAA Division I recruits started on the mound, with Evansville-bound southpaw Kressin taking the ball for the Mustangs while the Old Abes countered with Arkansas commit Vincent Trapani.
Kressin spun a gem for Menomonie, holding the Old Abes to two runs on five hits while striking out 11. He earned the win thanks to his offense breaking a 2-2 tie with two runs in the fifth, the first inning following Trapani’s departure.
“He throws hard, locates, has got good off-speed stuff,” Memorial coach Dan Roehl said of Kressin. “He’s as good as I’ve seen in a while in the Big Rivers, he’s very good.”
Menomonie added what turned out to be some crucial insurance in the top of the seventh, plating three runs in the frame. Memorial rallied with four runs in the bottom half, but it wasn’t enough.
“I thought our guys had a good approach at the plate,” Menomonie coach Mike King said. “They didn’t chase out of the strike zone, and they put balls in play. We were able to combine that into some crooked numbers, which was good, especially against a pitcher like Trapani.”
Trapani held his own too, striking out seven in four innings of work while holding the Mustangs to two runs, although walks put him in some jams a couple of times. He took a no-decision.
Menomonie rallied from an early 1-0 deficit by plating two runs on RBI hits by Lucas Smith and Davis Barthen in the second inning.
Memorial’s Cooper Kapanke evened the score at two with an RBI bloop single in the third, but no more runs were scored on the two starting pitchers.
Menomonie drew two walks with the bases loaded in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead, and turned it into a 7-2 lead in the seventh on a two-RBI double by Sam Sleichert and a Memorial error.
The Old Abes nearly undid all the damage with their final swings of the game, as Kapanke and Jack Fentress both drilled extra-base hits for RBIs. Jack Piper added a sacrifice fly, but Memorial came one run short of tying things up.
A couple of errors and 10 walks issued by the Old Abes proved to be too big of a hill to climb over the course of the contest.
“There are three phases of the game. Defensively, we got beat. Offensively, we didn’t get timely hitting. And we didn’t throw strikes,” Roehl said. “Those three phases aren’t rocket science, and we got beat in all three.”
Menomonie’s win ensured the Mustangs stayed unbeaten this season at 5-0. A doubleheader was scheduled for Tuesday, but the second game was suspended by darkness in the middle of the fourth inning. Menomonie leads 5-1 in that game, which will be finished at a later date.
“I think we’re on the right track,” King said. “We’ve got some nice players that are coming ready to work every day.”
Menomonie 7, Memorial 6
Menomonie 020 020 3 — 7 6 0
Memorial 101 000 4 — 6 9 2
WP: Jace Kressin (5 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 11 K, 3 BB). LP: Chase Bredl (0.2 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 H, 1 K, 5 BB).
Leading hitters — Menomomie: Lucas Smith 2-3 (2 2B, 3 RBI), Davis Barthen 2-4 (2 SB, RBI). Memorial: Cooper Kapanke 3-4 (2B, 3 RBI), Jack Fentress 2-3 (3B, RBI), Mitch Voller 2-3.
Records: Menomonie 5-0, 2-0. Memorial 3-1, 0-1.