If only for a moment, the Waukesha West baseball team looked like that team May 24, when Mukwonago scored five times in the seventh inning and turned a tense regional final in its favor. Though the outcome was frustrating, it illustrated how far the Wolverines had come.
On May 24, West found itself on the wrong side of a no-hitter against Mukwonago in an 11-0 whitewash. On July 9 in the regional opener against the same team, the Wolverines rallied back to take a 5-4 advantage with two outs left to procure before Mukwonago rallied for a 9-6 win at West.
Mukwonago senior Dan Timmers' one-out double in the seventh inning broke a streak of 11 straight batters retired by Waukesha West starter Derek Urban and started a rally that netted the Indians five runs, with an RBI single by Matt McCartan and two-run double by Noah Sadler as the biggest blows.
West wasn't dead yet. Facing Timmers, who had faced the minimum over the preceding two innings, each of the first four West batters reached to plate a run and load the bases with nobody out.
"I'm proud of the way we came back," Montez said. "We could have gone 1-2-3, because that (seventh) was pretty deflating, obviously."
That's where Mukwonago lefty J.J. Crawford came in. The southpaw threw nine of his 12 pitches for a strike and recording two strikeouts and a game-ending pop out to McCartan.
"JJ Crawford is a senior, a second-team All Conference pitcher, and he made some pitches against left-handed hitters," said Montez, who piloted the Wolverines to each of the past three state tournaments. "Those were tough matchups for us. Overall in the game, we just didn't make enough baseball plays. I felt like if we scored five runs, we could win the baseball game, and when you give up nine runs, you're not going to win too many baseball games."
The way the game started, it didn't appear likely West would even have a chance to make it close. Bricco and McCartan laced the first two pitches Urban threw for a single and double, followed by Sadler's RBI groundout. An out at the plate helped quiet a bigger rally, but Mukwonago scored three more times in the second and could have had more were it not for baserunning mistakes.
West scored four runs in the second, sending nine men to the plate. Alex Kermendy, Mark Switalksi and Zack Hastings delivered RBI singles in the rally, and like its opponent one inning earlier, West worked itself out of the inning on a baserunning gaffe.
"(We had) four baserunning mistakes throughout the game," Montez said. "You have to adjust when that happens and get over it and move on to the next play. I felt our effort was great, our attitude was great, we were prepared. We just didn't make enough baseball plays, and that's the way it goes in single elimination."
Timmers was able to strand two runners on in the third, and catcher Jason Strickler threw out a West runner stealing second and picked another off first to quell a fourth-inning rally.
West scored a go-ahead run in the fourth when Jason Christiansen singled and came around on a two-out error when Mitch Hauser bounced a ball to second base. Hauser also had two doubles in the game, including one of the RBI variety in the seventh.
West finished 16-14 (13-8 in Classic 8), a far cry from where Montez envisioned the Wolverines would finish after that Opening Day setback May 24.
" We got hit hard by graduation last year and we really only had three guys that hard varsity at bats, and that showed May 24," said Montez of a team starting, at times, four sophomores this year. "So if you had told me then we'd be 16-14 and finish third in the conference, I would have told you that you were crazy. That's how hard these guys work on a daily basis.
"I've been very blessed to have some talented teams here. This year, I had a different approach especially early on. I had to do a ton of teaching, which I feel like we do a lot to begin with. A ton of game teaching. Our sophomores are talented, but to play on a varsity level is not easy to recognize from over here watching. They kept getting better. We had a lot of defensive errors early on and kept working on pitching and defense, pitching and defense. As young as we were and inexperienced as we were, we never had more than two losses in a row. But we never had more than three wins in a row, either."
Hamilton 1, CMH 0
In 10 innings, Hamilton junior Trent Metzger delivered a game-winning single to lift Hamilton.
With one out, Taylor Paepke was able to fight off a 2-2 delivery from Crusaders relief pitcher Sergio Rodriguez for a single to left-center field. Junior Kelton Corcoran reached on a bunt down the first base line, pushing Paepke into scoring position to set up Metzger's drama.
Ben Bosch pitched seven innings for the Crusaders before giving way to Rodriguez.
Jake Shomin was the only player for Catholic Memorial to collect two hits.
Elsewhere, Wauwatosa West defeated Waukesha North in a first-round game, 10-5, and Waukesha South fell to Brookfield Central, 6-0. Anthony Wesley had three hits for North.
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