Spring Valley outscores EPC 9-1 in commanding victory

By Joe Peine
Posted 4/10/24

The Spring Valley Cardinals defeated the Elmwood-Plum City Wolves by a score of 9-1 on Thursday in Spring Valley. In a game where they got down early, the Wolves’ pitching settled down and the …

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Spring Valley outscores EPC 9-1 in commanding victory


The Spring Valley Cardinals defeated the Elmwood-Plum City Wolves by a score of 9-1 on Thursday in Spring Valley. In a game where they got down early, the Wolves’ pitching settled down and the defense tightened up in the middle innings.

Diego Schmitt got the start for Spring Valley in this one and got through the top of the lineup without issue. The rest of the team helped his cause in the bottom of the first as the offense put up a crooked number early, taking advantage of errors by the Wolves, plating four and taking a commanding lead.

A pitcher’s duel ensued between Schmitt and Wolves’ starter Brett Lifto, and the score stayed stagnant until the bottom of the fourth when the red birds got another one across, increasing their lead to 5-0. The wheels really came off for Elmwood-Plum City in the bottom of the fifth as errors abounded, and Spring Valley plated three more to make it 8-0.

The Cardinals would add on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth in what looked to be the makings of a shutout. However, the Wolves sent two pinch hitters to the plate in the final inning, and they combined to score their only run.

Brewer Link came into the game in the top of the seventh and drew a walk. Two batters later, Brett Kopp got a clutch hit and put EPC on the board. That’s all they would get though, and the game would end with Spring Valley taking a 9-1 victory.

It’s the beginning of the season, and there’s a lot of baseball left to play, but if there were two bugaboos for the Wolves it was strikeouts and fielding errors.

Head Coach Cory Brathall says Lifto pitched well, and the other guys played better ball as the game went on.

“Brett Lifto only gave up one hit in his four innings of work. A couple defensive miscues in the first inning led to giving Spring Valley some extra outs, leading to them scoring 4 and making Lifto throw a bunch of extra pitches which lead to him not going as deep in the game as we would have liked,” Brathall said. “Our defense got better as the game went on, and we played a clean few innings.”

Coach Brathall says they need to work on their plate discipline, first and foremost after this performance.

“Offensively Dylan Zielinger went 2-3 with two hard hit singles and Brett Kopp had a ringing pinch hit double late in the game scoring Brewer Link, but our offense needs to be better. We can't strike out 12 times in a game and expect good things to happen,” Brathall said. “Schmitt pitched well for them, so hats off to him, but the combinations of bad at bats and some errors early on was too much to overcome.”

For the Wolves to be better, Brathall says they need to be ready to play from the opening pitch to the final out, and that just comes with more games and more experience. 

“I'm excited to get in a groove with getting consistent games, and I truly believe a lot of good baseball is in this team’s future,” Brathall said.

Spring Valley’s offense was led by two multi-hit performances. First baseman Bartko led the team offensively going 2-4 with a triple, two runs, two RBI’s and three stolen bases. Centerfielder Cade Stasiek had a similar line, pairing two singles with two runs and three stolen bases.

The Cardinals pitching also had a good night as starting pitcher Schmitt turned in a stellar performance, going four strong innings, only allowing two baserunners and striking out nine. Then Kaden Robelia came in for the final three innings, allowing just a single run on three hits and a walk while striking out five.

Getting the win is obviously the most important part, but Spring Valley’s Head Coach Brandon Walczak says there are things they need to clean up if they want to compete for a place at the top of the conference.

“We fielded the ball well when given opportunities and made some nice plays,” Walczak said. “I think our base running was what needs most improvement as we made a few mistakes, and I would have liked to see us take advantage of more opportunities that other teams give us.”

The Cardinals have only had five outdoor practices thus far, so it’s understandable that the defense is still a bit of a work in progress after so much time off.

“A majority of our practices coming up will focus on things like first and third situations, holding runners on, situational awareness, run downs, relays, fielding and hitting,” Walczak said.

The progress they hope to make isn’t just on fielding; Coach Walczak says their hurlers need to work on some things as well.

“Our pitchers pitched well, but I would like to see them get into less 3-2 counts and stay ahead of batters. They both pitched well and were pretty consistent in throwing strikes, but both had a few lulls in being able to throw competitive pitches in or around the zone,” Walczak said. “Obviously it’s early in the year and it was a good starting spot for both. I’m not sure if we will necessarily have a ‘number one’ this year. We have about seven guys in our roster that I’d feel confident in to put them on the mound.”

That said, Walczak says he feels like Schmitt has shown the most consistent ability to throw strikes, maintain his composure and throw all pitches competitively, although the other guys are coming along, getting more accurate and confident.

“The guys I will be leaning on this year as both starters and relievers are Diego, Kaden Robelia, JT Bauer, Will Biggs, Cade Stasiek, Trevor Forster, and Caleb Bartko. My hope for all of them is to build consistency in throwing strikes, have the ability to throw competitive pitches around the zone, be able to locate all pitches and throw consistent off-speed pitches,” Walczak said. “These guys have grown as pitchers since last year and even within the last three weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing the growth of these guys as the season continues.”

The Cardinals’ season will continue with a full week of baseball as they play two games on the road and one at home.

First, they travel to Colfax on Monday to play the Vikings, and then they head to Glenwood City on Thursday to play the Hilltoppers. Finally, they return home on Friday to host the Somerset Spartans. First pitch for each of those games is at 5 p.m.

Elmwood-Plum City also has a busy slate of games, hosting two and going on the road for one. On Monday, they host the Durand-Arkansaw Panthers, and then the Cadott Hornets come to Elmwood on Tuesday. Their last game of the week is on Thursday when they will travel to Mondovi to play the Buffaloes. First pitch for those games is at 5 p.m.

Spring Valley Cardinals, Elmwood-Plum City Wolves, boys baseball, Dunn-St. Croix Conference