The Impact lost two highly competitive, close ball games over the weekend bowing out of the Land O’ Lakes Grand Championship series too early. On Saturday, they faced probably the best pitcher in the league losing to the Burlington Barons 4-2 at Horn Field. On Sunday, they traveled to Sussex to take on the Pewaukee Muskies and lost 5-3. Sunday’s loss was a tough one as it ended their chances of moving on and dropped their season record to 21-9. The Impact will play their final game of the season on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm when the travel to Hustiford for the SWABA Tourney consolation championship.
Going into Saturday’s contest, the Impact knew if they had to face Burlington’s ace, Brian Henschel, they would be in for a dog fight. Henschel, who played professionally in Texas the past six year, celebrated his 37th birthday by allowing only 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 16 Impact batters while walking only one and hitting 2 (one probably intentionally). The Impact sent Peter Jewel to the mound and he pitched well, but not good enough the beat Henschel on his big day. Jewell lost for the first time this year as his record dropped to 7-1. He hurled 7 innings allowing 4 runs on 8 hits, while striking out 9 and walking 5. Cole Borek pitched a scoreless and hitless 8th and 9th inning striking out one and walking 2.
Burlington got on the board first with a ground rule home run in the top of the 2nd inning. Yes that is right, a ground rule home run. The ball was hit deep to center field and the Impact’s centerfielder, Brandon Kozinski almost made a nice running catch on the ball, but it tipped off his glove and went into the dreaded Horn Field vines. Once Kozinski went into grab it not finding it, the batter was allowed to come all the way around to score. In the bottom of the inning, the Impact’s Joe Kooping hit one to deep center field that the Baron’s centerfielder could not get to as it hit off his body and went into the vines, but he did not go in after it so Kooping ended up with a ground rule double, and was left stranded on second base.
Burlington extended their lead to 2-0 in the top of the 3rd inning on a walk and a couple of hits, but Jewell retired three straight to leave two runners stranded. In the top of the 5th inning, the Barons pushed their lead to 4-0 when a two out seeing-eye grounder made it up the middle to the outfield. The Impact scored their lone two runs in the bottom of the 7th and it might have been more if not for Henschel picking off a runner at first base. The Impact collected three of their four hits in the inning with Jake Jewell starting the rally with a single to right center, Nick Paffhausen was hit by a pitch, and Kevin Schoenbach and Andy Liss had rbi singles. However, they could not get anything going over the final two innings as Henschel got stronger striking out five of the last six batters he faced.
Going into Sunday’s game against Pewaukee, both teams were in a do or die situation as it was win or you are done. The Impact had a couple of runners reach base in the top of the 1st inning, but one was picked off at first so things started out badly for them, especially when the Muskies scored two runs in the bottom of that inning taking a 2-0 lead. In the top of the 3rd inning, the Impact put three runs on the board to take a 3-2 lead. Andy Liss started the action reaching base on an error, Nick Schmidlkofer lined a single to right center field, Joe Kooping then lined one off the leftfield fence to drive in Liss and Schmidlkofer, and then Jake Jewell followed with a single to right field to score Kooping.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, Pewaukee regained the lead 5-3 as they plated three runs on three hits and a walk. Two of the hits were bloopers over the infield that no one could get to and the walk (in this writer’s opinion) was a strikeout but the umpire just could not pull the trigger on two pitches at the knees. If he had, the Muskies probably would not have scored a run that inning. The Impact could not get anything going the rest of the game. They hit the ball hard lining out three to four times and driving the ball deep to the outfield, but had nothing to show for it. Jake Jewell hit one that would have taken off the shortstop’s head had he not gotten his glove up in time, and if it would have been five feet higher, it might still be going.
Dave Mihlsimmer went the distance for the Impact as his record dropped to 8-3. He allowed 4 earned runs on 9 hits, while striking out 3 and walking one and hitting one. He deserved a better fate, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Impact on offense only collected five hits with Kooping and Schmidlkofer picking up 2 each.
Coach Rick Henneberry did make a toast after the game to a great season, even though he and his players knew that is could have been better, but that’s the way the ball bounces.