WASHBURN, Wis. — Ironwood overcame a 4-0 deficit and then held off Washburn in the last inning to win 9-7 in their first game of the season in Indianhead Conference play on Tuesday night.
“In the first inning, we were like a fawn trying to stand on its legs for the first time,” Ironwood manager Dan Niemi said. “This was our first experience outside the gym and it took us about three innings to get going. But I was very happy and very satisfied with the boys, because we didn’t lay down and we kept fighting.”
Washburn manager Frank Pufall gave the Red Devils credit for an “impressive win” but he thought it was a game his team could have won.
“It’s a frustrating loss,” Pufall said. “We hit the ball hard early, but we stranded too many guys. I thought our pitcher pitched well, but Ironwood is scrappy and stayed fired up. For not being out on the field, I thought they did a great job. But coach Niemi always has his teams ready to play.”
It was Washburn’s fourth game of the season.
The Devils are playing without their top two pitchers from last year, Adam Mackey and Bryant Rowe, and sophomore Matt Dary is now the No. 1 pitcher on Ironwood’s staff. The 6-4 Dary usually has good control, but for whatever reason could not find the plate in the first inning. He walked the first two Washburn batters and five of the first six while giving up two runs. He was fortunate to only give up two runs as he loaded the bases before striking out the last two hitters.
Dary gave up two unearned runs in the second inning as the Castle Guards jumped to a 4-0 lead, but Dary seemed to gather himself and get his bearings as he didn’t walk a batter in the inning.
“After that inning, things started to roll,” Dary said. “My fastball was working and I started to go to it in a pinch. And the team didn’t quit and did great with the bats.”
Dary moved down Washburn 1-2-3 in the next two innings and he left the game following the fourth inning after throwing 85 pitches.
“Dary was what you expect out of your ace,” Niemi said.
Then Ironwood’s bats came to life. In the third inning, Travis Mylly and Jonathan Clemens reached on errors and Dary beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Devin DeRosso lashed a low line drive between third base and shortstop that plated Mylly and Clemens. Slowly but steadily, the momentum of the game seemed to switch over to Ironwood’s side.
The Devils were down 4-2 but struck again in the fifth inning. Clemens, who was starting his first game as a freshman, was walked and Dary crunched a liner to center field. Clemens attempted to reach third base on the hit and a bad throw to third allowed Clemens to score, narrowing Washburn’s lead to 4-3.
DeRosso was safe on an error by the second baseman and Brett Ossanna walked to load the bases. Senior Brian Heckathorn hit a ground ball that was booted by the shortstop and Dary crossed the plate to tie the game at 4-4.
Heckathorn did not play as a junior but returned for his senior year. He batted four times on Monday night and hit the ball hard each time. He was 2 for 4 with a run scored.
The Devils took a 6-4 lead in the sixth inning. Mylly hit a screaming line drive down the left field line and was headed into second base with a stand-up double, before another throwing error allowed him to take third base. Clemens grounded to the second basemen who threw home to nail Mylly. The only problem was Mylly had barely moved off third base. Dary’s ground out scored Mylly and DeRosso’s single brought in pinch-runner Denver Sharrow.
In the seventh inning, Heckathorn rapped a double to the left-center field gap and Jared Sobolewski doubled down the left field line scoring Heckathorn. Desmond Sackman walked and Sobolewski scored all the way from second on a Clemen’s bunt. Another Dary single brought in Sackmann and Ironwood had scored nine straight runs to go up 9-4.
Ossanna came on to pitch in the sixth inning and held Washburn in check. But in the seventh inning, the game almost unraveled for the Devils. After Mylly threw out a runner at second base who was attempting to stretch a hit into a double, he caught a fly ball for the second out. Ironwood looked ready to return home with a victory. But four straight walks brought in a run and then Washburn’s Cody Carlson laced a double to left scoring two runs and shrinking Ironwood’s advantage to 9-7.
Another walk loaded the bases and Dary was back in.
A lazy fly ball to Mylly ended the game.
“My arm felt good at the end, so I threw three straight fast balls,” Dary said.
Niemi looked relieved after the game.
“At the end, I was a little nervous, a little tense,” Niemi said. “When I asked Dary if he could pitch again, he just said to give him the ball and he ended it.”
Ironwood rapped out 13 hits with Dary leading the way by going 3-5. DeRosso, Heckathorn and Sobolewski had two hits.
Washburn had only four hits in the game.
Sackmann pitched the fifth and part of the sixth inning and was the game’s winning pitcher.
Ironwood 0 0 2 0 2 2 3 — 9
Washburn 2 2 0 0 0 0 3 — 7