Monday, September 29, 2008

Support the Dug-Out Club

The Dug-Out Club was organized in 1970 to promote and support the sport of baseball in the greater Madison area. The primary focus originally was that of a "booster club" for the University of Wisconsin baseball program until their demise.

Since that fateful day in 1991, emphasis has been placed on area youth and amateur programs. The Club has directed their time, efforts and resources in the past several years in response to numerous requests for assistance at the Little League, youth, high school, American Legion, Babe Ruth and adult amateur baseball levels. In year 2008 for example, the Dug-Out Club has provided financial assistance totaling in excess of $19,000 to 21 organizations. Since 1992, the Dug-Out Club has contributed $220,000 to baseball programs in the greater Madison area.

Each year for the past 27 years, the Dug-Out Club has sponsored the Greater Madison/Brewer Baseball Banquet (including Raffle and "Silent Auction") to help these programs. The 28th Annual Banquet is set for sometime in January 2009, again at the Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison. The Milwaukee Brewers organization will participate again this year. We are also in the process of lining up some special guests (the actual date is not currently set as the availability of the Milwaukee Brewers staff and Concourse Hotel is not yet known. Actual date should be finalized in the next few months).

We invite you to participate in and support this year’s banquet by purchasing a table. Cost for a table of 10 is $450 and the event includes a steak dinner and free beer and soda. Individual seats are also available at a cost of $50 each.

If you purchased a table in the past, we thank you and ask for your continued support. If you have not bought a table in the past, now is a great opportunity to begin and join in the fun, food, beverages and camaraderie by "talking baseball" with other baseball enthusiasts.

Please view our website at for more information about the banquet as it becomes available and feel free to contact any of the members with any questions you may have regarding the banquet or the Dug-Out Club.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Verona wins Home Talent League title

VERONA – There’s the curse of the Bambino.

The curse of the Billy Goat.

And the curse of the Cavalier?

“I don’t call it a curse,” said Verona manager Dale Burgenske. “It’s just that we got beat by better teams all those other years. The team that gets the best pitching and the best hitting and the best defense, and has that little Irish luck in there, that’s the difference in winning the pennant and maybe losing one or two games.”

Whether it’s a curse or not, one thing is for sure, the streak is over. Verona won their first ever Home Talent League championship on Sunday.

Since Burgenske has taken over management of the team, the Cavaliers have been to the league’s “Final Four” in six out of the past eight years and haven’t been able to cash in until this year.

Verona got by the Utica Association by a score of 6-1 in a championship series that was extended to an extra game due to both teams having identical 2-1 records at the end of round robin play.
Superior play in all phases of the game led to the victory.

The hard hitting Cavaliers pounded out 13 hits, while starting pitcher Matt Niffenegger scattered seven hits over nine innings.

Stolen bases led to runners in scoring position, and even right fielder Zach Spencer’s diving catch to record the last out of the game highlighted the team’s defensive prowess.

As has been the case throughout the championship series, the bottom of Verona’s order came up big once again in the final and deciding game.

“(Nick) Krohn, (Bill) Engelhart and (Dan) Koss were really super in the last two or three games,” said Burgenske. “That’s why you win is when you can execute like that. That’s the name of the game.”

It certainly was a team effort, though.

“We’ve had pretty much this core group of guys for awhile now,” said Krohn. “We didn’t have too much turnover over the past couple years, but it feels so good to do it with these guys.”

Utica had two chances to end the series but just couldn’t get it done. After having lost to Verona at home the week prior, the Association’s job got much harder when they had to travel to Utica on Sunday.

“You can’t beat these guys with one run,” said Utica manager Dale Vike. “They hit the ball. We knew it going in.”

Verona ended their streak of years without a championship in 2008. The Red Sox ended theirs in 2004. Could the Cubs be next?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Verona wins HTL title!

Congratulations to Verona, 2008 Home Talent League champions!

Monday, September 8, 2008

If this sounds familiar, it should

UTICA – New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

The saying holds true in amateur baseball circles here in Wisconsin. One year ago, Monona had a chance to clinch the Home Talent League championship when they hosted Sauk Prairie in the third game of the league’s round robin format.

Monona lost, and they were forced to go on the road to win the championship the following weekend. It all sounds very similar to what’s happen this year in the HTL.

On Sunday the Utica Association had a chance to clinch the title, but lost to the Verona Cavaliers pushing the final and deciding game back a week.

With both Utica and Verona tied at 2-1 after three rounds of round robin play, the deciding game is to be played at the site opposite of which the teams first played. Thus, next week’s game will be played on Sunday September 14 at 1:00 p.m. in Verona.

What remains to be seen is if Utica can rebound and win the league pennant on enemy territory.

Utica failed to take advantage of the opportunity to prevent the series from extending an extra week by giving up a barrage of runs to a solid hitting Verona club.

The Association took 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning behind the strength of RBI singles by both Matt Ellingson and Micky Ramsden, but that was as good as it got for Utica.

Verona tied the score at 2-2 in the very next frame with a pair of run scoring singles by Zach Spencer and Justin Scanlon and never looked back.

“They hit the ball,” said Utica manager Dale Vike. “We had a couple mistakes that cost us some runs. That didn't beat us. They beat us.”

Verona kept on scoring to the tune of an 11-5 victory. The usually potent Cavalier lineup added some extra bang when the bottom of the batting order came up big in the victory.

The seven through nine hitters in the Verona lineup all had RBIs. Designated hitter Bill Englehart had two.

“It's a coach's dream when everybody down the lineup is making solid contact with the ball,” said Verona manager Dale Burgenske. “When our team plays that way, we score a lot of runs, period.”

Utica has their work cut out for them next week. Not only do they have to figure out a way to slow down the Verona slugging powerhouse, but they have to do so with an ailing pitching staff.

Ellingson, who started the first game of the Final Four for Utica, hasn’t pitched since due to soreness in his shoulder.

“They beat us today,” said Vike, “but that don't mean they're going to beat us next week.”

It’s kind of like Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Next weekend’s Home Talent League road trip: Utica at Verona on Sunday September 14 at 1:00 for the 53rd and final game on the road trip.

Tailgating at Utica

It was nice to see some good old fashioned tailgating before the Home Talent League championship round robin at Utica.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Utica has leg up on competition for Home Talent title

UTICA – Dinner hasn’t been served, but the Utica Association has reserved its seat at the head of the table. Going into the final weekend of round robin play, Utica is one win away from the Home Talent League championship.

The Association secured its spot as the only undefeated team left in round robin play on the strength of a 7-6 victory over Sun Prairie on Sunday in Utica.

Right fielder Micky Ramsden drove in the winning run with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to put Utica over the edge.

“Early in the count I was just trying to hit it hard and drive it,” said Ramsden, “get it out of the infield and maybe get a chance for a sac fly. But then once I got behind, I was just trying to hit it hard and hopefully it finds a hole, and it did.”

The winning run was just the tip of the iceberg for Utica, though, as they rallied from a 5-1 deficit to leg out the victory.

Down by four runs in the eighth inning, Matt Ellingson started the comeback with a sacrifice fly to score Matt Dwyer to make the score 5-2. Christian Stokstad followed with two RBI single scoring Brad Knickmeier and Doug Vike to get within two runs at 6-4.

In the ninth inning second baseman Doug Vike, son of Utica manager Dale Vike, drove in the tying run with a two RBI double to knot the score at 6-6. Vike subsequently scored the winning run on Ramsden’s single.

“I wasn't seeing the ball very well today at all, but I finally got lucky sooner or later,” said Doug Vike.

Veteran pitcher Scott “Scoobie” Hestnes got the victory for the Association after two innings in relief of Dwyer. Hestnes along with Dale Vike are the only two players left from Utica’s only other Home Talent League championship way back in 1991.

“I’ve been in situations like this before,” said Hestnes. “I’ve been in a lot of Final Fours. This is what I’ve been playing for right here. It’s awesome. Just awesome”

Only a victory next weekend over Verona will wrap up Utica’s first HTL title in 17 years. Several scenarios are still possible in which both Sun Prairie and Verona are still alive.

A Verona victory combined with a Sun Prairie loss on Sunday will force a one game playoff the following week where Utica would, in turn, have to play at Verona.

Another scenario where both Verona and Sun Prairie win next week would force a three way tie and extend the season two more weeks. A coin toss would determine who plays in the preliminary game.

Utica can put to rest any such eventualities with a win at the end of round robin play. And according to Dale Vike, the team is ready for the challenge.

“A lot of these guys haven't won a championship, and they want it bad,” said Vike. “I just hope they can win it just for them. I know what it feels like. I want them to feel it. It's the greatest feeling other than your kids being born.”

Next weekend’s Home Talent League road trip: Verona at Utica in the third round of the championship series round robin on Sunday September 7 at 1:00.

Photo credit: Brian Carriveau