Niagara baseball opens
By RON DEUTER
NIAGARA, Wis. – A hard fastball from Hunter Kaldor, a loud pop of the leather as the ball smacked into the mitt of catcher Patrick Moreau, and high school baseball was officially back in Niagara.
The Badgers, fielding Niagara’s first varsity baseball team in more than 50 years, bowed to Stephenson 13-2 Tuesday afternoon at Memorial Park.
“These kids started something now,” Niagara head coach Dean Neveau said. “Hopefully we can keep it growing.”
Niagara, a young team to begin with and only able to practice outdoors for two weeks, showed some rust against a Stephenson squad playing in its fifth game of the season. The Badgers have three seniors, three juniors, one sophomore and five freshmen.
“This Niagara team is right where we were last year,” Stephenson coach Dan Koller said. “They’re trying to get baseball going. I’m real excited about that. They have some good looking kids out there, and they’re going to be just fine once they get running. I can see that. They have some talented players up here.”
Tied 1-1 after the first, the Eagles rallied for four runs in the second and never trailed again.
Trevor Christophersen, also Stephenson’s starting pitcher, shot a grounder through the right side for the first two of his three RBIs in the game. Another two runs came in when Arzack Brown reached on a throwing error.
Christophersen also ripped a triple to right in the Eagles’ two-run seventh, finishing with three hits in the game.
The Eagles added single tallies in each the fourth and the fifth. Brown grounded in a run in the fourth, and Nate Rasner’s grounder to first brought in the run in the fifth. Brown, hitting two doubles in the game, plated another Stephenson run in the seventh.
Matt Hanson’s two-run double through the left side fueled the Eagles to a four-run sixth. Jake Cole added a RBI hit. Another run scored when Eddy Becerra smoked a double down the left-field line.
“The first game after 50 years, it was exciting,” Neveau said. “I’ve got a lot of young kids. I made a lot of mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes. The kids hit the ball well.”
Niagara had seven hits in the game, all singles except for Brett Ochs’ double in the fifth. But unlike the Eagles, the Badgers weren’t able to string enough hits together. Niagara put its leadoff hitter on in four innings, but some base-running blunders and Stephenson’s defense thwarted potential threats.
Becerra turned a nifty double-play to end a Badger threat in the third, snagging a grounder up the middle, tagging second and firing to first.
The Badgers also turned two in the game, Austin Harvath flipping to Kaldor at second and over to Ochs at first to end the sixth.
Stephenson collected 12 hits.
“The kids hit the ball much better tonight than we did past couple of games, so I’m real happy about that,” Koller said. “Christophersen made another strong start, came out here and threw strikes.”
Christophersen went five innings, allowing six hits while striking out three. Brown threw the final two frames.
Niagara’s Kaldor also went five innings, fanning three before giving way to Chase Champagne.
“Hunter, he’ll get more seasoned with more pitching,” Neveau said. “It’s been two weeks since we’ve been able to get on the field. We’re so young too, that’s the biggest thing.”
Neveau said some of his upperclassmen haven’t played baseball since they were 12 years old and others on the team have never player period.
“We’re just looking for improvement every game,” he added. “Just in the short time we’ve been outside, I’ve seen them progress much more.”
Champagne plated the Badgers first hit, first run and first RBI. He led off the first with a sharp single to left and stole his way around the bases, racing home on a throwing error. In the fifth, he drove in a run by bouncing into a fielder’s choice.
Kaldor, Harvath, Cory Marcouiller and Logan McGonigal had the Badgers other hits.
The Badgers roster also shows Tyler Rice, Brandon Holcomb, Domenic Spigarelli, Jordan Koshiba and Chris Westrich.
Niagara (0-1) hosts Norway Thursday. Stephenson improved to 2-3.
“The setting up here, I was here really impressed,” Koller said. “It’s a pretty little park.”
Stephenson 140 114 2 – 13
Niagara100 010 0 – 2