Grafton baseball team uses strength in numbers to turn corner in NSC play
Less than a year removed from a memorable season that culminated in a trip to the WIAA state tournament, Grafton baseball coach Brian Durst made a bold assessment of his 2011 team.
“I think we’ve proven we’re a better all-around team this year than last year,” Durst said after watching the Black Hawks edge Whitefish Bay, 5-4, in nine innings for their
fifth straight win last Friday.
“We had some great players last season, but this team is more balanced and has more depth.”
Grafton, which rode the strong arm of pitcher Conor Fisk to a 21-10 record in 2010, opened some eyes last week by ripping off four consecutive wins in North Shore
Since Fisk graduated, the Hawks have used multiple arms to pick up slack and improved to 5-4 in the NSC and 8-4 overall.
A different Grafton pitcher won each game last week, most recently senior Ryan Schmitt, who turned in three innings of scoreless relief against Bay.
After overcoming deficits of 3-0 and 4-3 to force extra innings, the Hawks prevailed with a workmanlike rally in the bottom of the ninth.
B.J. Weisflog walked to start the frame and raced to third base on a single by Ryan Donahue. After intentionally walking Robbie Doring, reliever Joe Fiorita struck out Alex Nennig.
However, Beau Benzschawel spoiled the Dukes’ escape plans by cracking a single over the right fielder’s head for the game winner.
“It couldn’t have been a more exciting high school baseball game,” Durst said. “We had to keep battling against a team that was in first place at the time.
“We had to do all the little things to win this one.”
Bay, which fell to 5-3, jumped ahead quickly by scoring three runs off starter Nate Lukas in the opening inning. In addition to having two infield errors behind him, the
freshman left-hander gave up a two-run homer to Johnny Markwiese.
However, Lukas settled down after that and allowed just one more run in six innings of work.
“Nate is a real promising young pitcher and did a great job of keeping us close,” Durst said.
The Hawks wasted no time wiping out Bay’s early strike with a three-run rally of its own in the first.
After Weisflog and Donahue singled, Doring laced a two-run double and moved to third base on a groundout. Benzschawel’s infield single tied the game at 3-3.
The Dukes regained the lead with a run in the third and remained ahead until the bottom of the fifth. Singles by the Weisflog brothers, Choo and B.J., were followed by a
one-out RBI base hit by Doring.
Schmitt replaced Lukas in the sixth and shut the Dukes down the rest of the way with help from catcher Ben Ernster, who threw out a would-be base stealer in the ninth.
“Ryan really came through for us. He gives us another arm to use at the end of games, so our starters only have to go four or five innings,” Durst said.
Grafton was poised to win the game in the eighth when it loaded the bases with no outs. But Fiorita wriggled out of the jam by retiring the final three batters on a strikeout, pop-up and fly ball.
Grafton 7, Slinger 5
The Hawks built a five-run lead and withstood a late rally by the home team to secure a conference win June 16.
After scoring four times in the first, Grafton stretched the advantage to 6-1 in the fourth.
Slinger pulled within 6-4 after five innings, but the Hawks picked up an insurance run in the seventh.
After Nennig pitched the first four innings, Grafton turned to three relievers. Ryan Hartwig worked one inning and Doring went 1-2/3 innings before giving way to Schmitt
after the Owls loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh.
Schmitt struck out the final batter to save the win.
Donahue led Grafton with a 3-for-3 effort, and Benzschawel was 2-for-4 with a double and triple.
“It was an exciting, gut-wrenching game,” Durst said. “We needed contributions from everyone to win.”
The victory was Grafton’s first at Slinger in recent memory, Durst said.
Grafton 10, Germantown 5
A 15-hit attack carried the Hawks to a league win at home June 14.
Grafton scored three runs in the first, two runs in the third and five runs in the fourth while building a 10-3 lead.
Donahue went 3-for-3 with two doubles and three RBI, and Nennig was 3-for-4 with two RBI. Doring and B.J. Weisflog each had two hits.
Grafton opened last week with a 4-1 win over West Bend East on June 13.
This week, the Hawks were scheduled to face Nicolet on Monday and Cedarburg on Tuesday and play road games at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against Whitefish Bay and at
7:30 p.m. Friday at Sheboygan Falls.
Grafton will then play 5:30 p.m. games at home against West Bend West on June 27 and on the road against Homestead on June 28.