JANESVILLE, Wis. - Sunday afternoon ended up as simply a tasty appetizer to what should be a delicious main course Monday night.
The Rock County River Monsters defeated Madison Impact 6-2 at Riverside Park to force a winner-take-all match-up between the two teams Monday night, with a berth in the Class AAA Legion state finals at stake.
Monday's first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Riverside.
Sunday started with the River Monsters being awarded a forfeit victory when Lake Geneva showed up with just eight players. Rock County then took on Madison, a team that defeated them 7-1 Saturday.
The Monsters were led by a strong performance from pitcher Micah Overley, some heads-up baserunning and a few clutch hits.
Overley was in command from the start on the mound, which allowed the offense some time to kick into gear.
The River Monsters took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning thanks to a Madison error and back-to-back sacrifice flies by Tyler Aasen and Overley.
Perhaps the game's turning point came in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Madison's Josh Endicott hit a triple to drive in Carson Tomony to make it 2-1. with nobody out.
Trenten Harber hit a hot shot to Rock County third baseman Drew Ries, who tagged Endicott out, then threw late to first to complete the double play.
After beating the throw to first, Herber bolted for second when he saw nobody covering the bag. RC first baseman Jared Emerson hit second baseman Casey Stone in stride en route to the bag, and when Stone tagged Herber, the River Monsters had a quite unconventional double play.
"Those were two great plays," Rock County coach Rich Raisbeck said. "Sure, they might have made mistakes there. But we were calm and heady enough to get the outs, and that took them out of a potentially huge inning. If they get that run in to tie the game, who knows what happens from there."
Overley credited his defense with a game-changing play.
"With the tying run standing on third and nobody out, I just thought I needed a miracle to get out of this,' Overley said. "And that was frustrating because as a pitcher I hate giving up the lead. That was just a huge play by those guys."
The River Monsters took command of the game following the twin killing. Twice, the River Monsters pushed across a run when they attempted a double steal with runners at the corners. Dalton Madsen crushed an RBI double to left field, and Corbin Ovist added an RBI two-bagger as well.
Overley took a 6-2 lead into the seventh before allowing one run, then closing Madison out.
"It all started with Micah today," Raisbeck said. "He was phenomenal and did everything we would ask a pitcher to do. The guys were ready to play, and we had good approaches at the plate. Guys were in the game mentally, and that's why we ended up on the right side of the scoreboard."
Overley said he tried to not put too much pressure on the win-or-go-home game.
"I was just trying to throw as good as I can," Overley said. "I wanted to throw strikes and make the defense make plays behind me, and they did, just like they've done all year long."
Raisbeck said he's looking forward to the opportunity to play Monday night. "I feel really good about where we are," Raisbeck said. "We've got several arms left to choose from, and I don't think you can ask for much more than playing one game to go to state. I feel great about us being at least in the game, with a chance to win. We've just got to come out here and hit the ball."
Rock County 000 204 0 - 6
Madison 000 100 1- 2
Leading hitters: RC: Stone 1x2, RBI, R; Overley 1x3, 2 R; M: Endicott, 1x3, RBI.
Pitching: RC: Overley, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 SO; M: Busser 5.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 4 BB; Haufle : 0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB; Gordon: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 SO.