Nicolet junior ace Sam Kohnke sometimes prefers to be on the other side of the pitcher and catcher exchange, as when he's not mowing down opposing batters, he is the 18-2 Knights' finest backstop.
"I enjoy it more," he said. "I'm a good catcher and I like doing both. It's occasionally hard on the arm but when they tell me to rest (from catching), I get mad, because I want to be out there, especially in conference games."
But after a 26-minute delay due to rain and after an otherwise rock-solid defense developed a few cracks late, the Knights were very happy to have Kohnke on the hill to hold back a potent Germantown offense in a 6-2 North Shore road win Monday night.
"We were very fortunate that he had thrown only 73 pitches through six innings," a concerned Knight coach Dick Sykes said. "If this had been a hot day instead of a cool night, he might not have had that extra gas at the end and that might have given this team (the Warhawks) the opening that they needed."
Instead, the Knights remained in first in the North Shore at 7-2 in league, while the Warhawks fell to 5-7 and 8-11, respectively.
The loss was an open example of how the Warhawks season has trended, said Germantown coach Parrish Wagner.
"If we get out well, we have no worries," he said. "If we don't, we have lots of worries. ...We fall behind, we go flat. Sometimes it's like we might as well not even bring our bats to the plate."
And Wagner's worst fears came to pass Monday night.
Nicolet came out swinging against Germantown ace Tyler Wester, as Brian Huntsinger and Thomas Appleby notched RBI doubles and then Kohnke helped himself with a bomb of a two-run homer to left to make it 4-0 in the first.
That lead proved to be more than enough for Kohnke, as he didn't let anyone past second base through the first four innings. That included the 26-minute rain delay in the fourth.
"I just feel stronger this year," Kohnke said. "I know I'm definitely thowing harder. When I'm feeling really strong, I think I can strike everybody out, but today I felt just a little sore, so I was throwing to contact a little more."
Huntsinger provided Kohnke with some needed cushion in the fifth with a laser-beam two-run homer to left that jumped off the bat and was over the fence in a matter of seconds.
Blake Marks put Germantown on the board with a sacrifice fly in the Warhawk fifth, and in the seventh, two errors and a single made it 6-2 before Kohnke shut the door with two strikeouts looking. He finished with six strikeouts and one walk.
For a team with championship aspirations, Sykes was not pleased with the Knights endgame defense, something he's worried will cost the team in much bigger tilts down the stretch.
"We've got to be clean, we've got to understand the situation and we've got to make the play," he said in an impassioned manner to the post-game huddle.
Kohnke feels all the small things can be overcome.
"We've played together for awhile (as a unit) so we know each others strengths and we know how to pick each other up," he said.
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