Fair exchange is no robbery.
That’s how Eau Claire’s city baseball series can be looked at after Memorial reversed Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to North by taking a 2-1 win Thursday night at chilly Carson Park.
The Old Abes came from behind with solo runs in the fourth and fifth innings and then rode the sensational relief pitching of Adrian Bethel to the win.
It was a big win for Memorial (17-5), while it was not a complete loss for the No. 1-state-ranked Huskies (16-2), who claimed an outright Big Rivers Conference championship when Chippewa Falls split with River Falls. It gave North (9-1) a three-game lead with two to play as Chippewa Falls slipped into a second place tie with Memorial at 6-4.
Memorial coach Dan Roehl said Tuesday’s defeat in a close battle was a key to the win.
“That was as good as I felt after a loss,” he said. “I could tell that we’ve come a long way when you play like that against the best in the state.”
Jack Brown pitched into the fifth inning when he left after reaching the limit of 103 pitches and got credit for the win.
“This is a great feeling,” said Brown, the junior right-hander. “This is a whale of a team, and I’m really proud of them.”
Bethel came in from right field to get a bases loaded strikeout to end the sixth and then retired the final six Huskies in order over the next two innings to get a save.
“I got loose between innings and felt good,” Bethel said. “This is amazing. We’ve played with and against those guys since we were kids.”
Roehl credited Logan Irvine and Jonah Barstad for coming off the bench and playing key roles in the win.
“They have not played a lot but are ready when we need them,” Roehl said. “It’s nice to be able to call on them in key spots.”
Irvine’s deep fly to right plated the first and tying run in the fourth after Bethel had doubled and taken third on Carson Johannsen’s single.
The deciding tally came in the fifth with Tanner Kohlhepp on third and Barstad on first, running for Adam Krajewski who had singled.
“As a pinch runner, he fakes a steal and draws the throw,” Roehl said of Barstad.
Catcher Tyler Greenlund’s throw to second somehow sailed between the shortstop and second baseman and Kohlhepp raced home with what turned out to be the winning run.
North coach Bob Johnson was not happy with his team’s play.
“We left too many opportunities on base and we didn’t make the defensive plays,” he said. “It’s tough to win with three hits.”
North actually had four hits but could not cash in on two bases-loaded situations.
The Huskies scored in the second when Noah Hanson led off with a single, advanced to third on an error and wild pitch and scored when a pitch got by catcher Krajewski. But a double play on an outstanding effort by Abes second baseman Mitch Froehlich ruined an opportunity in the fourth when they had three baserunners and did not score. It happened again in the sixth when two walks sandwiched around John Bickle’s single with one out went for naught when Brown forced a flyout and Bethel took the final batter on strikes.
Memorial also had a tough time cashing in on North starter Nick Hestekin, who worked out of a bases-loaded situation in the first and pitched well enough to win. He was followed to the hill by Noah Hanson and Jaelin Williams, who pitched hitless ball after coming on in the sixth.
Brown allowed four hits and struck out five while not allowing an earned run. He said he talked to Tuesday pitcher Zach Gustafson and the coaches.
“They told me what they saw and we worked out a plan,” said Brown, effective with a curveball. “The curve felt good.”
Johnson felt good going into the last of the seventh with the possibility of getting into the meat of the Huskies lineup.
“We were hoping to get the leadoff man on, but the second baseman made a good play,” he said. “We would've liked to get down to Venne but didn't make it.”
The championship was a record 17th for North and seventh for Johnson. In the 142 games in the series, Memorial holds a slim 73-69 edge.