Provancher, No. 18 Blue Dukes stifle Slinger in 3-1 win


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

Whitefish Bay, Wis. – The Blue Dukes rebounded from last evening’s loss to the Slinger Owls behind junior starter Evan Provancher’s six stellar innings of work from the mound. With the help of a few instances of timely hitting, as well as Provancher wiggling out of the few jams he got in, Whitefish Bay improved to 6-2 on the spring. For Slinger, they slip to 5-3 on the spring, and their next chance to get into the win column will be on Monday against West Bend West.

It was a quiet first frame of the ballgame that actually featured the lone extra-base hit of the day, a deep double to the right field fence off the bat of Dukes’ designated hitter Benj Otero (Viterbo College commit). Slinger starter Alec Strupp (Aurora) neatly pitched around it but was back in hot water in the next inning.

Whitefish Bay loaded the bases to lead off the bottom of the second, courtesy of a walk, single, and hit by pitch. Senior shortstop Nathan Ebersole (Madison JC) jumped on the first pitch he saw to drop a single into shallow right to score the game’s first run, and an error shortly after scored the second. But Strupp did well to limit the Dukes’ damage to just the two runs.

Meanwhile, Provancher made his team’s two-run lead look a lot larger than the scoreboard indicated. He had begun to settle in, cruising over the next four frames. After walking the lead-off man in the second, Provancher retired 13 straight batters but was put in a dangerous situation seemingly out of nowhere in the bottom of the sixth.

After Whitefish Bay sophomore Brady Marget smacked a hard grounder under the third baseman’s glove, scoring his team’s third run, the Owls answered back. With one out in the top of the sixth, Slinger’s Owen Zaskowski earned a five-pitch walk and the Owls’ top-of-the-order bat, Trevor Ulesich, pulled a sharp single to left field – Slinger’s first hit – that dropped in and snuck past the outfielder to put the tying run on second. With Provancher still on the mound, he looked a step closer to getting out of it with a punch-out, but a dropped third strike loaded the bases instead.

In stood Slinger’s three-hole hitter, the Madison College-committed Logan Mantz, and after Provancher fell behind 3-1, Mantz fouled off a pitch and took a borderline strike three for the second out of the frame. Provancher walked home a run to bring Slinger’s first run in, but he coaxed a routine fly out to right to end the inning and the threat.

A pretty quiet half-inning for Whitefish Bay closed the sixth and Slinger picked up right where they left off. They opened the frame with back-to-back singles to left off reliever Ebersole but a failed sacrifice bunt and hard-fought strikeout had the Owls down to their final out. Ulesich stepped in again, the only Owl with a hit in the game, and he fouled off the first five pitches he saw. A sneaky pick-off attempt at second nearly ended the game, but instead a fly ball to right was caught for Slinger’s final out, giving the Blue Dukes the win in the process.

This year’s edition of the Blue Dukes have an interesting mix of experienced seniors and a talented and youthful core. As the sophomores and freshmen get more and more comfortable at the varsity level, it’ll be fun to see how they finish in the North Shore Conference and beyond. As for Slinger, they, too, took a lot of competitive at-bats. And for a team with only one hit on the night, they look like they have the pieces on offense to be a pesky match-up for any pitcher – especially once it warms up, finally.

TOP PERFORMERS

+ Evan Provancher, RHP, Whitefish Bay, 2020: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K
+ Alec Strupp, RHP, Slinger, 2019: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 8 K
+ Nathan Ebersole, SS/RHP, Whitefish Bay (2019): 2-for-3, RBI; 1 IP, K, SV

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