After a weekend of letting leads slip away, the Lakeland baseball team wasn't going to let that happen again. Taking on Tomahawk Thursday night at the Lakeland baseball field, the Thunderbirds took out the Hatchets in strong fashion with an 11-1 score.
"I told the guys, when you put up 12 hits, you score 11 runs, you should win the baseball game," head coach Mike Wilhelm said. "We hit well tonight, we did a lot of things really well. Honestly, when you hit like that, and we do things like that, we play good defense, TJ throws strikes, that's what we get."
After a scoreless first inning and nothing from the Hatchets in the top of the second, the Thunderbirds made their first move.
After Gunnar Weitz was hit by a pitch, Jesse Armstrong hit a double that allowed Weitz to score. A single by Brandon Slavinsky at the next at-bat scored Armstrong in turn for a two-run inning for Lakeland.
The Thunderbirds held Tomahawk to another three-and-out to open the third, before scoring their largest inning of the game.
Three consecutive singles to open the inning allowed for both Jamie Slavinsky and Tate Olson to cross the plate. A following single by pitcher TJ Ullius scored Kyosuke Kimura, a courtesy runner for catcher Caleb Menzia.
A walk and a single by Armstrong led to the bases being loaded, which Lakeland took advantage of on a base hit by Brandon Slavinsky to score Ullius. Another single by Austin Wanty scored Weitz for a 7-0 Lakeland lead.
Another three and out for Tomahawk in the fourth set up Lakeland to extend their lead, but the Thunderbirds were unable put another run on the plate.
Tomahawk hit three of their five hits in the top of the fifth, but Lakeland's defense was ready, putting the side away before the Hatchets could take advantage.
The Thunderbirds added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth, with Parker Biertzer scoring off a wild throw towards home after a single by Ullius. A wild pitch on the ensuing play would also score Kimura for two more Thunderbirds runs.
Tomahawk would finally find the scoreboard in the top of the sixth, with a single from Zach Volz scored Jake Ruid.
Lakeland would retaliate with the final two runs of the game. A single by Wanty scored Armstrong, followed by a walk with the bases loaded to scored Ray Rentmeester to end the game.
For their first home game of the season, Wilhelm said it felt good to get a win.
"Much needed. After Saturday, after we had a couple close games that turned into games that got away from us a little bit, it's nice to get that big W, especially at home," he said. "Just to come out and win at home is always a nice thing."
Coming from the two Saturday games in Kaukauna where the Thunderbirds let leads escape them, Wilhelm said that mentality was a big part coming into Thursday's game.
"Learning from our mistakes. Mental toughness was a big one for us. We got squeezed a little bit by the umpire down there, but we can't let that affect us as pitchers and just need to throw to the plate and do our job," he said. "That's all we can control. So I think that was a big one. Little more mental toughness coming into today."
Hitting was a strong point against the Hatchets, which Wilhelm thinks that it's improving for them.
"It's coming around. It's still a question if we're going to see a higher level pitcher, not that their two guys weren't good, but to see a higher level guy that throws hard is going to be tough for us because we're starting a lot of young guys," he said. "They haven't seen that upper level pitching yet."
But while it's improving, Wilhelm still lists it as their biggest question mark.
"One game can be deceiving, but I still think hitting is going to be a question mark for us. We have to be more consistent with our hitting," he said. "Our two-strike approaches have to get a lot better. We're taking a lot of curveballs on two strikes and striking out. So that's got to get a lot better."
The Thunderbirds travel to Wittenberg-Birnamwood tonight for a non-conference game.
Ben Gauger may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.