Despite improved play, Grafton can’t find winning touch against Homestead
Try as they might, the Grafton Black Hawks could not make the third time a charm in the WIAA baseball playoffs.
Starting pitcher C.J. Koehler kept Grafton close by blanking Homestead in the second and third, but the Highlanders broke through for two runs in the fourth. This
After being soundly beaten by Homestead in two North Shore Conference games this season, the Hawks stepped up their play in a regional-final rematch July 19 but came up short again, 5-3.
“It really was the best game of the three we played against them,” Grafton coach Brian Durst said.
“We stayed right with them, but we couldn’t get the big hit when we needed to, and Homestead did.”
Trailing, 5-2, Grafton put a scare into the Highlanders one last time in the final inning at Rennicke Field.
With one out, Robbie Doring singled and reached second base on a ground out by Kevin Scholz. When Alex Nennig followed by legging out a grounder for an infield hit, Doring raced all the way home to score with the plate uncovered.
Beau Benzschawel then came up as the potential tying run, but reliever Tommy Martin got the freshman to fly to right field for the final out.
“We did everything we could,” said Durst, whose team had a four-game winning streak snapped and finished the season 13-11.
“We kept playing hard the whole game. We had our chances but just came up a little short.”
Grafton outhit the Highlanders, 9-6, but had to play catch-up the entire game after falling behind, 2-0, in the first inning.
The Hawks answered in the second when Ryan Donahue hit the first homer of his career, a solo shot to right field. Later in the same inning, Grafton narrowly missed
tying the game when it had a runner thrown out at the plate on a close play.
time, Matt Schroeder and Max Beckers made the Hawks surrender two unearned runs with RBI singles that gave their team a 4-1 edge.
The Hawks got one run back in the fifth when Scholz singled and scored on a two-out double by Benzschawel.
However, Homestead made it 5-2 in the sixth on Mitch Hauser’s two-out RBI double off reliever Ryan Schmitt.
“They’ve got an excellent team, and they seemed to come up with a clutch play whenever they needed it,” Durst said of the Highlanders.
The win went to sophomore Jake Erfourth, who pitched the first five innings before giving way to Martin. Erfourth struck out three and walked one.
Koehler, a senior, took the loss. In five innings, he struck out four and walked five.
Nennig and Scholz each had two hits for the Hawks, as did Schroeder for Homestead.
The win improved the Highlanders to 19-12 heading into the sectional semifinals. Last Friday, Homestead’s season ended with a 10-9 loss to Cedarburg.
A first-round loss provided an early tournament exit for Grafton one year after it advanced all the way to the state tournament. However, Durst was quick to note that
his team quieted naysayers who believed the Hawks would struggle after losing 2010 standouts such as pitcher Conor Fisk and catcher Skyler Bohn to graduation.
“The group of seven seniors we had this year did a great job, and so did the younger players we had,” Durst said.
“They gave it everything they had.”
Lost to graduation will be Koehler, Donahue, Schmitt, B.J. Weisflog, Ryan Hartwig, Ty Chopp and Ben Ernster.