Clintonville doubles up Bonduel in pitcher’s duel

Kluth outduels Bonduel’s Erb
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Leader photo by Morgan Rode Clintonville’s Colton Kluth fires a pitch during a 4-2 win over Bonduel on Sunday.

The first time the Clintonville and Bonduel Legion baseball teams met this summer, Bonduel’s Wyatt Erb pitched a gem to outduel Clintonville’s Colton Kluth and help the Grizzlies to a 4-0 win.

The teams met for the second time this summer on Sunday in Clintonville. A similar game took place, with Bonduel’s Erb and Clintonville’s Kluth each toeing the rubber again. This time around, though, it was the Diamond Cats that earned a 4-2 win as Kluth outdueled Erb.

Bonduel got runners to first and second with just one out in the top of the first inning, but Kluth got a strikeout and then induced a popup to end the Grizzlies scoring threat.

After not scoring in the team’s first tilt, Clintonville put up a two-spot in its half of the first after a costly Bonduel error. Nick Schoen doubled with one out before moving to third on a Kyle Finger single. Courtesy runner Chance Bork then stole second.

Erb struck out his second batter for the second out in the inning before getting Jared Cartwright to hit a grounder to second. After fielding the ball cleanly, the throw to first was dropped, allowing Schoen and Bork to score easily. Erb escaped further damage by striking out another batter.

“We struggled in that first game to pick up his (Erb) pitches, but tonight were were hitting that first pitch curve he likes to throw to us,” Schoen said.

The two runs allowed Kluth to pitch to contact and quickly work through the Grizzlies lineup. The righty allowed at least one baserunner in the second, third and fourth innings, but was able to work out of trouble thanks to a solid defense behind him.

A fielding error allowed Bonduel’s Cole Letter to reach to open the top of the second. The next batter chopped a ball back to Kluth, who threw to second, starting a double play.

In the third, Bonduel catcher Garrett Engel reached on a throwing error before moving to third on an Isaac Boldt single. After a flyout to right forced the two baserunners to stay put, Kluth induced another flyout to right. This time, Engel tried to score but was called out for having left third base to early.

Bonduel put two more runners on in the fourth after a Noah Beilfuss double and Letter walk. Kluth worked out of trouble by striking out two batters and getting a flyball for the third out.

Clintonville looked to tack on runs in the second, but Erb forced a popup and then struck out a batter to strand runners at second and third.

The Diamond Cats added to their lead in the third after a pair of base hits and another key Bonduel error. Finger opened the inning with a single before courtesy runner Bork moved to second on a Kluth sacrifice bunt.

After a strikeout, Nathan Krueger delivered a line drive to right that Bonduel rightfielder Bryce Engel nearly caught on a headfirst dive. Instead, the ball dropped, allowing Bork to score and Krueger to go all the way to third after a throwing error. The next batter struck out but reached first after another error, allowing Krueger to score.

From that point on, Erb settled in and allowed just two more baserunners. He struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings and finished the game with 14 strikeouts.

Bonduel’s Boldt and Brandon Olsen each walked to open the fifth inning. A potential double play saw the return throw to first sail high, allowing Boldt to score and trim the deficit to three. Kluth struck out the next batter the limit the damage.

After going down in order in the sixth, the Grizzlies looked ready to rally in the seventh after one out singles from Garrett Engel and Boldt. Olsen followed with a towering shot to right-center field that looked to be certain extra bases.

Instead, Schoen, the Diamond Cats centerfielder, made a spectacular running catch for the second out. Engel scored from third but Boldt was forced to retreat back to first. Kluth then sealed the win by getting a flyout to right.

“It was really all my defense behind me tonight, I couldn’t throw my curveball accurately the whole game,” Kluth, who finished the night with four strikeouts, said. “I also had great pitch calling from my catcher (Kyle Finger) and the outfield was terrific. Every ball they hit, they seemed to crush them all, but they were right to our guys.”

“Colton didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but he still was able to pitch a complete game because of the defense,” Clintonville coach Randy Finger said. “I thought our defense was solid, even after having a week off.”

The Diamond Cats were playing in their first game since a loss to New London in the title game of the Clintonville Tournament on Saturday, June 30. Clintonville picked up its 10th win of the summer and now owns a 10-6 record.

Bonduel slipped to 4-4 on the summer and wants to clean up its defensive play going forward.

“Mental mistakes, that’s what ends up killing us every game,” Bonduel coach Jason Boldt said. “The games we have lost are because of those mistakes. We always seem to throw and kick the ball around early, and then after the third inning, clean it up. It’s hard to explain right now.”