Austin does itself in

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Jess Stoltz is a senior now, having been a varsity ballplayer for Winona since his sophomore season.

Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Jess Stoltz is a senior now, having been a varsity ballplayer for Winona since his sophomore season.

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He’s the kind of player that walks tall and is memorable for having more than a wicked stick.

"He’s their number No. 1 pitcher, and their best ballplayer," Austin coach Jerry Miller said. "We knew about him. We’d seen Stoltz before."

On Tuesday, after watching his senior-led club fight to take control of its season opener, Miller eye-witnessed Stoltz and the Winhawks steal what amounted to a handout win.

"We gave it away," said Miller, whose club looked in good shape up 7-4 with two outs to go.

But a string of six Winhawks’ hits and a major Packer blunder combined to fuel Winona’s emotional comeback.

"We’ve been down for so long in so many sports," Coach Rod Schwarz said. "We’re sick of getting stomped on."

"I don’t know what it was," Stoltz said. "We just started a rally by putting the bat on the ball."

The loss hit at least one Packer hard.

"I just don’t want to lose," said Austin starter Joe Huffman, who still wanted more when it was over. "I felt fine. I still feel fine.

"I was in a groove where I didn’t think they could get to me."

At one point Huffman looked as if he were closing in on a complete game by retiring 13 of 17 batters, including the first batter of the Winona seventh.

Huffman also collected two run-scoring knocks.

But Stoltz’s end game played out better, complete with the six-run rally that Stoltz capped with an RBI single.

Stoltz added a four-strikeout relief performance that quieted the Packers in the sixth and crucial seventh innings.

Austin’s undoing came after Winona put runners on first and second with a pair of one-out singles.

Andy Fox’s looping single to right plated both runners – making it 7-6 – after rightfielder Brent Holck’s throw short-hopped catcher Jon Holtorf and bounced into Austin’s dugout.

Huffman failed to backup Holtorf on Holck’s throw, which Miller said should have been cut off by the first baseman, or blocked by his catcher, in the first place.

"There were other big plays," Miller said, "but that was the key play in the game."

"I should have backed-up the play," Huffman said.

Fox went to third on the error and after another single chased Huffman, Chris Hanke – who looked clueless in his previous at-bat, a three-pitch strikeout – pasted a go-ahead double to dead centerfield.

Stoltz followed with his RBI single.

"We didn’t play the way we should have as seniors," said Miller, whose Packers (0-1) will try to right themselves with Thursday’s 4 p.m. home doubleheader against Mankato West.