Waukesha North held a one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning of a regional final against Sussex Hamilton at UW-Whitewater, and relief pitcher Jamie Dewitt took it one pitch at a time.
Dewitt mowed down the first batter, and teammates yelled from the North bench for Dewitt to keep calm.
After the second strikeout, Dewitt told himself to once again stay calm. Against the third batter, Dewitt kept his cool and recorded his fourth straight strikeout, which made it five out of six batters going down via punch out.
With the 5-4 victory secure for North, Dewitt let it all out.
"That blew everything out of me," Dewitt said. "I just let it out and I haven't stopped smiling since."
Dewitt came into the game in the sixth with the contest tied 4-4. In the bottom of the sixth, North's Logan Kozak drilled a deep fly ball for a stand-up double to lead off the inning.
James Winter and Dylan Conrad both popped out to the Hamilton outfielders but moved Kozak around the bases for the 5-4 lead.
"We talked this morning when we had our meetings about what it was going to take to win today," North coach Dan D'Amico said. "We knew that it wasn't going to be an easy game, and we knew even when we were up four it wasn't going to be enough to pull it out, and that they weren't going to go away. That's exactly what happened."
North, the No. 2 seed, started the game quickly with two runs in each of the first and second innings. Conrad singled in the first to score Taylor Anderson and Max Thode walked with the bases loaded to help the Northstars take a 2-0 advantage.
"They had nine hits," Hamilton coach Mike Schramek said. "I don't know officially, but I've got to believe they had four, five that were infield hits. Good for them. You put it right in between the shortstop and the third baseman where a guy can't make a clean, easy play on it. I get it. We've done that, too, and that's great. You get on any way you can. That was the thing that was a bit frustrating is I felt we squared up on a lot of balls and they were able to have the fortunes of good luck on their side to get base runners on, especially early in the game to get that 4-0 lead."
In the second, Kozak and Conrad recorded RBI singles to grab that 4-0 lead.
Hamilton, the No. 10 seed, began its comeback in the third with three singles. With runners on first and second, Cole Roepke singled to right field to bring in Meilke, which allowed Will Geels to reach third.
Roepke had gotten to second and advanced to third, even though Geels was standing on the base. Roepke was so close to third that he nearly touched Geels but ran back to second and got into a pickle.
In the commotion, Geels sprinted for home when Roepke was tagged out trying for second, but Geels beat out a tag at home for Hamilton's second run.
The Chargers had a younger roster for the most part this year, and Schramek believed his team came together more as the season went on.
"We had some things we were working through all season long as far as just coming together," Schramek said. "Usually it's two classes; we've got three classes. We've got four sophomores over there that play significant innings for us this year. It took some time to kind of get them to come together. I'm not forcing anybody to be a friend with anybody, but in between these lines, you're teammates and you have to respect one another and come together. We had a pivotal moment in the year where I think guys were kind of starting to buy into that a little bit and realizing there was something to that."
In the fifth, Geels' triple scored Meilke to cut North's lead to 4-3. Three batters later, Zac Bagley drove in Geels to tie the game at 4-4.
"We talked this morning about being mentally tough, and that's what it was going to take to win," D'Amico said. "Not being on your normal home field, normal home time, not playing on the day you were expected to play on, we knew that put us at a disadvantage, because they were expecting to travel either way."
Initially, D'Amico considered bringing in a different pitcher into the tie game in the top of the sixth.
"Jamie's been good for us on the mound all year long, but it's been in the last couple weeks where he's really been dynamic," D'Amico said. "He's been ready for this and he wanted the ball. We were thinking of going with somebody else in the sixth but he came to me and said, 'I want it and I can go as many as you need me to go.' He's not an at-length guy. He stepped up and he was a leader for us today."
Dewitt's mentality changed once his team scored its fifth run.
"It changes the whole mentality of pitching," Dewitt said. "When you're tied, you're just doing what you can. When you're up one, you're hoping your teammates can make the play behind you and you're just pitching to contact."