Second-place standing in NSC doesn’t help Grafton in WIAA seeding
A solid finish to the regular season gave the Grafton baseball team a two-game winning streak entering the WIAA playoffs this week.
The Black Hawks also went into a regional semifinal Tuesday, July 12, with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.
Despite blanking Homestead on July 5 to earn a share of second place in the final North Shore Conference standings and thumping Brown Deer, 11-1, last Friday, Grafton took a modest No. 6 seed into the regional semifinals. Four other conference teams received higher seeds than the Hawks even though only one, champion West Bend West, had a better league record.
“It was unbelievable,” Grafton coach Brian Durst said of the coaches’ voting at the July 6 seed meeting.
“We were disappointed, to say the least. We requested a third or fourth seed, but the other coaches didn’t see it that way.
“It’s certainly difficult to satisfy everyone with the seedings, but we thought we deserved to be a little higher.”
Grafton finished the regular season 16-8, including an 11-7 conference record capped by a 3-0 home win over Homestead. The victory left the Hawks tied for runner-up honors with Homestead and Cedarburg, six games behind West (17-1).
“That’s the best finish we’ve had in the North Shore since I’ve been coaching here,” said Durst, who’s in his 16th season at the Grafton varsity helm.
“West ran away with it, but second place was really up for grabs. It shows how much competitive balance there is in the conference.
“We had some opportunities to win games slip away late in the season, but we kept ourselves in the mix and finished strong.”
The host Hawks made the most of their regular-season finale against Brown Deer, pounding out a nonconference win with two big innings on Senior Night.
After jumping to a 5-0 lead with a six-hit flurry in the first, Grafton saw its bats go quiet for the next four frames. However, the Hawks caught fire again with a six-run sixth inning that ended the game on a 10-run mercy rule.
Freshman Zach Merkle made his first varsity at-bat a memorable one by lacing a two-out, two-run single on a 3-2 pitch to provide a walk-off victory.