In Tuesday's WIAA regional final baseball play, the seeds largely held to form, but not without some drama and a little bit of luck.
Just ask Whitefish Bay coach Jay Wojcinski, whose team scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to outlast upset-minded Shorewood in a 7-6 thriller.
"Those kids from Shorewood played their butts off," said Wojcinski, whose team was the second seed while the Greyhounds were the seventh seed. "Really, by all means, they deserved to win that game. We got lucky. It was 100 percent luck tonight."
Meanwhile, sectional top seed and North Shore champ Nicolet had to work a little harder than it wanted to in beating eighth-seeded Grafton, 6-3, and fourth seeded Homestead overpowered fifth-seeded Brown Deer, 11-1, in five innings.
Combined with the one upset of the evening, that of sixth-seeded Port Washington beating third-seeded Cedarburg, 5-4, in eight innings, the field in Friday's WIAA Whitefish Bay sectional will be an all North Shore Conference affair. Nicolet (28-5) will take on Homestead (19-15) in the 10 a.m. semifinal, while Bay (26-10) will challenge Port in the 1 p.m. match-up.
The sectional championship, with a berth in the WIAA State Tournament July 29 and 30 at stake, will be at 4:30 p.m.
Last season, Brown Deer was the "Cinderella" of the field, claiming the sectional title and making the state semifinals.
Homestead coach Ernie Millard would like to see if he can't make that slipper fit this time around. His team beat Nicolet early in the season, before falling, 7-0, on July 14 in the game that clinched the league title for the Knights.
"We saw Brown Deer get to state," he said, "and with the way things have been going for us, it would be nice to see if we could do it." The Highlanders recently broke a 10-loss in 11-game streak just before the start of the tourney
Cinderella nearly had an early trip to the ball, when Shorewood (7-25) frustrated Bay for more than six innings before the host Blue Dukes rallied. Senior pitcher Robert Duffy stymied the Blue Dukes with an array of curveballs and off-speed material for much of the game.
And his teammates did their best to help him out. Pat Sellars RBI single gave the Greyhounds a 1-0 lead in the first and Declan Gruber hit a two-run single in the third to make it 3-0 off of Bay all-stater Kevin James, who had to leave the mound after three innings with a sore back.
Shorewood made it 6-2 in the sixth, as R.J. Adams, Karl Gaebler and Malachi Krishok all had RBI singles.
But Duffy, whose pitch count was well north of 100 going into the seventh, tired as James cracked a two-run homer to left-center to start the frame and make it 6-4. Shorewood coach Tom Meyer congratulated Duffy, rolled the dice and asked his best overall player and catcher Krishok to see if he could close the door.
Duffy left to rousing applause from the large Shorewood contingent at Bay's Cahill Field.
And Krishok battled gamely and got to two outs before the Blue Dukes' Brian Kroll nudged a bases-loaded single down the first base line to score two runs and tie the game. After a walk to Charlie Markson, Jeff Kerr ripped a hit to left score Mike Leckie with the gamewinner.
The Blue Dukes erupted from their dugout in celebration.
"We needed to do a lot of right things to try and beat a club like this," Meyer said, "and that is a good ball club we lost to. It was a privilege to play them because in trying to build our program, we'd like to become more consistent and be like them."
"We gave it our best, but they earned it."
"Shorewood did everything it needed to do to win that game," Wojcinski said, "...but give credit to our guys. They had to go out and earn it. Shorewood gave us nothing." Charlie Knipper got the win in relief.
Homestead 11, Brown Deer 1: Highlander pitcher Casey Barnes gave up just a solo home run to Brett Youngbeck in the fourth and Homestead took advantage of five Falcon errors in the second and third innings combined to score seven runs and cruise to the victory.
"It's been a struggle for us lately," Millard said, "so we weren't taking anything for granted and we made sure to play that way."
Mitch Hauser, Mike Collins and Barnes all knocked in runs in the second and Joey Stoll drove in a run in the third. Stoll and Hauser came to practice early and watered the dry Rennicke Field infield, making it far more playable, Millard said.
The game was also the last home event for Homestead trainer Andre Harwell, who is moving to Kansas City later in August. Harwell was not only known for his professionalism and care, but also for his splendid renditions of the National Anthem, which graced the beginning of many Highlander events including this game.
"Andre is an unbelievable guy," Millard said. "It's always about the kids with him. He really became a member of our family."
Doug Kozak took the loss for the Falcons (14-16).
Nicolet 6, Grafton 3: Ninlo Ianello came back from a three-week hiatus due to an injury and hit a home run for the Knights. They also got a two-run double from Rob Mayer in the first inning, an RBI double from Sal Maniscalco and three hits and two RBI from Tom Appleby in earning the win over the Blackhawks.
Andy Allen got the win with relief help from Sam Kohnke.
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