Snaring a title share with fanfare:

Pitchers’ duel gives Grafton baseball first league title since 1990

GRAFTON’S JACK SOMMERS (right) threw a shutout last Thursday against West Bend West to keep the Black Hawks’ North Shore Conference title hopes alive. Above, Ryan Quello turned a double play to end the game. Grafton won, 1-0. Photos by Mitch Maersch


Ozaukee Press staff

One day after blowing a chance to win the North Shore Conference title outright, the Grafton High School baseball team barely edged a talented opponent to keep their title hopes alive last week.

On Monday, the Black Hawks got enough help tho ensure their first conference title since 1990.

Grafton finished the NSC season 11-7, the same record as West Bend East and Whitefish Bay.

Nicolet and West Bend West are 10-7 and play each other on Thursday. West Bend East beat Nicolet, 10-0, on Monday, ending the Knights’ solo title hopes and giving Grafton a share of the crown.

Two wins for Nicolet this week and the Knights would have been 12-6, winning the NSC outright.

The Hawks stayed in the race thanks to a gem by senior Jack Sommers on senior night last Thursday.

Sommers tossed a shutout against West Bend West, whiffing five and allowing four hits and two walks in 81 pitches.

“Jack was just outstanding. He knew that we’d need a big game especially with (Tayton) Herron pitching on the other side. Those are two of the toughest pitchers in the conference,” coach Brian Durst said.

Sommers said a little tweak in his delivery made him more effective.

“Coach Durst told me he noticed I wasn’t getting into my pitches as much. Just bringing my knee up higher and trying to keep my rhythm,” Sommers said. “I think it helped a lot.”

Sommers got the first batter out in five of the seven innings. Three runners reached third. One was tagged out an inch before reaching the plate while trying to score on a passed ball, and two others were stranded.

The Hawks only got two runners to third, but one scored. Senior leadoff hitter and speedster Mason Lempke singled to center in the bottom of the first inning and moved to second when Michael Muecke bunted and was safe at first when nobody covered the bag. A Carson Faust fly out sent Lempke to third.

With Ryan Quello batting, Muecke got into a pickle. A Spartan threw to third and Lempke sprinted home without a throw.

“Mason came in clutch with distracting with the person with the ball, and I was able to get to second base,” Muecke said.

“Michael got caught slacking. I was just waiting for the first baseman. Right when he was about to throw it, I just took off,” Lempke said.

The Spartans tried the same play in the sixth inning, but the Hawks held the ball. Runners ended up staying at first and third.

“It was nice to see the things we worked on and emphasized in practice play out,” Durst said.

The Hawks ended the game on a 4-6-3 double play, from Nick Colker to Quello to Garrett Bonk — all seniors.

“I told Nick right away, this is us right here, and it happened. It felt amazing. I just knew it was going to come,” Quello said.

Quello and Colker made diving plays on grounders to take hits away from the Spartans earlier in the game.

“West Bend West has a great team. They’re such a good program, and they’re well coached. It makes you focus that much more. Every pitch is that much more important,” Durst said.

“We looked like a top-level team tonight.”

The Hawks honored their nine senior players and team manager before the game: Lempke, Muecke, Quello, Bonk, Colker, Sommers, Faust, Bennett Hildebrand, Vince Cameranesi and manager Blaine Ator.

“Probably the most exhilarating game to play. Close games — it’s always a nail-biter toward the end,” Muecke said.

“Especially with all the people around, all the energy going around throughout the entire crowd, it’s awesome. It’s a great environment to play.”

“I’ll remember this for a while,” Sommers said.

“It was crazy, having so many people behind you. It’s been amazing,” Faust said.

The seniors missed their freshman season due to the pandemic, and Durst said many took their lumps as sophomores on varsity the following year.

Now, they’ve led Grafton to its first conference title in 33 years.

The Hawks lost to Homestead, 8-6, on May 17. They earned a No. 4 seed in the Division 2 playoffs and host the winner of No. 5 University School of Milwaukee and No. 12 St. John’s Northwestern/Chesterton Academy/University Lake School on Tuesday, May 30.



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