Re-energized Grafton opens eyes by soaring in first two baseball games
What a difference a year can make.
After struggling to a 4-23 record in a 2009 season marked by anemic offense, inconsistent pitching and shaky defense, the Grafton High School baseball team has gotten off to a flying start at home in 2010.
The Black Hawks put the clamps on Thomas More in a season-opening win last Saturday and then hammered their way to a 17-7 victory over Wauwatosa East on Monday.
“We’ve had two great games to open the season,” said Grafton coach Brian Durst, whose team took its lumps last year with a young lineup that should be stronger, smarter and more determined this time around.
“We have just about everybody back from last year, and we’re really excited about our chances.”
Against East, the Hawks came out swinging. They pounded out 16 hits and scored in five of six innings, including an eight-run third, in a game called on the mercy rule.
“We really hit the ball well,” Durst said. “Tosa East came in 2-0 and has a good team, but we kept the pressure on.”
Four Grafton players each had two or more hits, led by sophomore Robbie Doring’s 4-for-5 performance, which included two triples, three runs scored and three RBI.
C.J. Koehler went 3-for-4, and Al Nennig and B.J. Weisflog each had two hits. Nennig, a freshman, smacked a three-run homer and had five RBI.
After taking a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the third, the Hawks erupted for eight runs, all scoring after two outs. An infield error was followed by six straight hits, including a two-run triple by Skyler Bohn, RBI singles by Weisflog, Doring and Ryan Hartwig and Nennig’s homer.
East fought back and scored three times in the sixth to pull within 13-7. However, Grafton ended the slugfest with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
The last two runs came home when a grounder hit by Dylan Mayer was thrown away for an error.
Koehler pitched the first five innings for the win. He struck out six and walked five.
Grafton 7, Thomas More 2
After trailing, 2-1, the Hawks scored six unanswered runs to win easily in their 2010 debut.
Grafton pulled even with a run in the fourth when Nennig tripled and scored on Mayer’s groundout.
In the fifth, the Hawks scored twice on infield singles by Koehler and Doring to go ahead, 4-2.
Capping the comeback was a three-run sixth highlighted by a two-run double by Koehler.
Senior pitcher Conor Fisk worked the first six innings for the win. He didn’t allow a hit for the first 5-1/3 innings and finished with a one-hitter, striking out nine and walking two.
Talent gives Hawks high hopes
With only one regular from last year’s team lost to graduation, Durst has good reason to be optimistic about this season.
The Hawks have four seniors, led by Fisk, who is in his fourth varsity season. Although he missed much of last year because of a shoulder injury, Fisk is healthy and should be one of the top pitchers in the North Shore Conference, Durst said.
“Conor will be one of the real keys to our success,” said Durst, whose team is coming off a last-place, 1-17 finish in NSC play.
Grafton’s other veterans include seniors Bohn (catcher), Mayer (first base) and Birch (second base); juniors Weisflog (center field), Koehler (third base/pitcher), Hartwig (outfield/first base), Ty Chopp (designated hitter) and Ryan Donahue (infield); and sophomore Doring (shortstop).
Weisflog and Koehler both received honorable mention in all-conference voting last year and should be among the team’s top hitters.
Durst has also been impressed with the early season play of Nennig, who has shown power with a compact swing.
“I’m impressed with the strides our players have made since last year,” Durst said. “It’s exciting. We’ve got some good pitchers and we’re showing we can hit the ball.”
The Hawks will miss Matt Malkowski, a senior outfielder who died April 30 after being injured in a car accident several weeks earlier.
“That’s a big blow to us, especially from an emotional standpoint,” Durst said.
This week, Grafton was scheduled to face Sheboygan Falls on Tuesday and will continue nonconference play with a 5:30 p.m. game at
Muskego on Thursday and at home against Brown Deer at 3 p.m. Saturday.
On June 1, the Hawks will open their NSC schedule at 5:30 p.m. at Port Washington.
A HEAD-FIRST SLIDE got Grafton’s B.J. Weisflog to second base before the throw in his team’s season-opening win over Thomas More last Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt