No. 6 Preble rallies in the sixth to push past No. 20 Marquette

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

FRANKLIN, Wis. – It required a come-from-behind effort late, but the No. 6-ranked Green Bay Preble Hornets downed the No. 20-ranked Marquette University Hilltoppers, 5-3.

Head coach Andy Conrad and the Hornets called on lefty southpaw Ryan Stefiuk to start the game, the top-ranked left-hander in the state’s 2020 class, and put his team in a position to win. After a mostly clean two first innings of work, pitching over a walk here and there, Stefiuk got into the game’s first bit of trouble in the bottom of the third when he started the frame with a hit by pitch. He promptly picked the lead-off runner off but a walk restarted the threat with starting counterpart Joey Pettit at the plate.

Pettit had been really cruising through the Preble order, for the most part, navigating past some of the big names at the top of the lineup. His work on the mound was keeping the Hilltoppers up with the Hornets, but it was it launched one-out double to left that allowed Riley Garczynski to score all the way from first. Jake Orthober grounded a hard single through the middle of the infield that scored Pettit, too, and all of a sudden Marquette had a big 2-0 lead.

Immediately, Preble countered with a rally of their own. With one away, Max Wagner singled hard to left field and Josh Nicklaus earned a walk for four-hole hitter Ben Graff. He singled into a soft grounder through the left side of the infield that allowed Wagner to score and the ball was overrun by the left fielder, pushing a heads-up Nicklaus to third base. First baseman Bryce Miller’s fly to right was plenty deep enough to tie the ballgame, 2-2.

After a relatively quiet and scoreless fourth frame, Marquette re-took the lead in the fifth after Max Hauser led off the inning with a base hit to right that wound up being the last batter Stefiuk would face. Graff entered the game in relief in time to field a Garczynski sacrifice bunt after Hauser’s pinch-runner stole second. It looked like Graff had enough time to get the runner headed to third on the sac attempt, but the throw just got away from him, bringing the go-ahead run home.

An error was at the center of next half-inning, too. After Nicklaus led the inning off with a base hit to left, a balk moved him over to second. Miller grounded a ball up the middle and Garczynski did an excellent job to keep the ball in the infield but his throw to first got past the first baseman and Nicklaus scored all the way from second on the play. With two outs, Hunter Petska sliced a double into the right-center gap, pushing Preble’s fourth and fifth runs home, handing them their first lead of the game in the process.

For the most part, Graff pitched over any trouble the Hilltoppers brought to the table in his final two frames of work. He struck out six batters in his three innings of work and pitched around a single hit allowed and a pair of walks, closing the door in the seventh to help Preble get off to a 2-0 start in 2019.

The Hilltoppers dropped their third straight out of the gate and are still looking for their first win of the spring. They put together a gritty performance against the No. 6-ranked team in the state yesterday, and they’ll look to bounce back on Monday against Germantown.