The weather, with dank, unseasonable cold and the conditions of Stormonth Field--fans felt like they walking through a jungle swamp as they splashed through the rain-soaked grass to the grandstands-- should have been enough to depress the Nicolet baseball team Wednesday in its battle with archrival Whitefish Bay.
But when the Knights fell behind to the Blue Dukes, 9-3, after three-and-a-half innings, Nicolet would not have been blamed if it had gone completely in a funk and called it a night.
However, they did nothing of the sort, scoring in each of the last five innings, including a three-run rally in the seventh that was highlighted when C.J. Putterman was hit by a pitch with the bases-loaded and the score tied lifting the Knights to a surprising 10-9 victory.
"We're still a Jekyll and Hyde sort of team," said Nicolet coach Dick Sykes, pointing to his team's four errors, a problem all season. "We really should not have won that game, but we hit the ball (13 hits) and we never quit."
"But seriously, we can't be making a habit of this."
Nicolet improved to 6-3 in North Shore play, good for third place and 10-4 overall, while the Blue Dukes fell to 5-4 and 8-4, respectively.
"We've had this problem all season long," said Blue Duke coach Jay Wojcinski. "We get teams down, but we don't put them away. We had them down today but we did not keep them down. We didn't take advantage of good situations when we had them and we didn't throw strikes when we needed them."
That latter point became a major issue late as Bay hurlers Justin Alt, Bobby Linneman and Johnny Markwiese (loss) combined for nine walks.
Bay was still in control 9-5 going into the Nicolet sixth, but two walks, two hits (including an RBI single by D.J. Peltz) and a sacrifice fly by Putterman closed the gap to 9-7.
Putterman then came in in relief of starter Joel Sharon, who battled gamely after the Blue Dukes knocked him around for six runs in the second inning, and put down the Bay side in order in the top of the seventh.
That set the stage for the bottom of the seventh theatrics as Linneman, who had come in for the starter Alt in the sixth, issued a walk to open the frame and was replaced by Markwiese. Markwiese was greeted by back-to-back singles from Jordan Griffin and Jordan Teichen (RBI).
With the score now 9-8, Markwiese got a big strikeout but a groundout was able to tie the game at 9-9.
Wojcinski then took a gamble by intentionally passing the Knights' two biggest hitters in Peltz (three hits and three RBI) and Sharon to load the bases.
That put Putterman up, who went deep into his at bat before being hit by a Markwiese fastball on the back. There was some initial conflict as to whether Putterman had swung at the pitch, but the umpires conferred and ruled that he had not, which brought in the winning run for Nicolet.
"By all means, we should not have won this one," said Sykes, whose team beat West Bend East the night before, "but we'll take it."
Putterman, who also got the win, wound up with three RBI for the game as Ryan Korngiebel contributed three hits for the Knights.
"It won't hurt after awhile," Nicolet assistant coach Jason Grodsky said in reference to the decisive plunking as he smiled and laughed with Putterman while walking off the field.
Bay had taken the lead at 6-2 in the second as James Stecker had a two-run double and Jackson Weber a two-run single.
"Our inability to close games is killing us" said Wojcinski. "We need people to step up and shut the door. Right now, that's not happening."
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