Nicolet junior ace Sam Kohnke prefers to be on the other side of the pitcher and catcher exchange, as when he's not mowing down opposing batters, he is the 18-2 Knights' finest backstop.
"I enjoy it more," he said. "I'm a good catcher, and I like doing both. It's occasionally hard on the arm but when they tell me to rest (from catching), I get mad, because I want to be out there, especially in conference games."
But after a 26-minute delay due to rain and after an otherwise rock-solid defense developed a few cracks late, the Knights were very happy to have Kohnke on the hill to hold back a potent Germantown offense in a 6-2 North Shore road win Monday night.
"We were very fortunate that he had thrown only 73 pitches through six innings," a concerned Knights coach Dick Sykes said. "If this had been a hot day instead of a cool night, he might not have had that extra gas at the end and that might have given this team (the Warhawks) the opening that they needed."
Instead, the Knights, who also edged Waukesha North, 9-8, on July 27 and Port Washington, 7-6, on June 25, and routed West Bend West, 20-3, on June 23, remained first in the North Shore at 7-2 in league.
Nicolet came out swinging against Germantown ace Tyler Wester, as Brian Huntsinger and Thomas Appleby notched RBI doubles and then Kohnke helped himself with a two-run homer to left to make it 4-0 in the first.
That lead proved to be more than enough for Kohnke, as he didn't let anyone past second base through the first four innings. That included the 26-minute rain delay in the fourth.
"I just feel stronger this year," Kohnke said. "I know I'm definitely throwing harder. When I'm feeling really strong, I think I can strike everybody out, but today I felt just a little sore, so I was throwing to contact a little more."
Huntsinger provided Kohnke with some needed cushion in the fifth with a laser-beam of a two-run homer.
Kohnke shut the door on an error-filled Warhawks rally in the seventh with two strikeouts. He finished with six strikeouts and one walk.
For a team with championship aspirations, Sykes was not pleased with the Knights endgame defense.
"We've got to be clean. … And we've got to make the play," he said in an impassioned manner to the post-game huddle.
When building a program like coach Tom Meyer is with the Greyhounds, sometimes good efforts and moral victories just aren't enough.
A team needs to go out there and actually win some games sometimes.
Which is what happened on June 23, when the Greyhounds swept Woodland competitor Wauwatosa West, 15-9, and 7-1, in a home doubleheader. They were the third and fourth wins of the season for Shorewood.
"It was very good," Meyer said. "We really needed that. There are three aspects to the game: hitting, pitching and fielding. If you put all three together you should win almost all of the time. If you even put two of them together, you're giving yourself a chance."
The Greyhounds, who also lost to New Berlin West, 7-2, on Friday and Whitnall, 10-0, on June 25, took on Brown Deer in a doubleheader Tuesday and will close out the pre-holiday portion of their schedule at 5 p.m. today at New Berlin Eisenhower.
"We have to look at every game carefully," Meyer said. "… It's important that you maintain an even keel."
Which the Greyhounds did against West. They fell behind, 9-5, in the top of the fourth, but took the lead back for good with seven in their half of the frame. They rapped out 14 hits in the game, including three by Joshua Rathkamp and Karl Gaebler and two apiece from Patrick Sellars, Declan Gruber and Robert Duffy.
Duffy (five innings pitched), got the win in relief of Malachi Krishok.
In the nightcap, Dylan Knutson scattered seven hits with three strikeouts and a walk in earning the win. Gruber had three hits while Krishok, Sellars, Jack Slowey and R.J. Adams all had two apiece.
Whitefish Bay baseball
After a discouraging 14-2 home loss to Germantown on June 23, the Blue Dukes needed a change of scenery and some positive reinforcement.
They got both, beating Greater Metro Conference leader Brookfield East, 8-2, on June 24 behind a fine pitching performance from Joe Lucey; rallying for a 5-4 home win over North Shore contender Cedarburg on June 25, and then splitting a non-conference doubleheader Saturday with Pius XI, winning the first, 11-9, and dropping the second, 11-5.
The twin bill was held by special arrangement with Pius XI in the Minneapolis Metrodome as the two teams took a joint road trip.
"It was a very good time," said Bay coach Jay Wojcinski. "The Pius guys are all my friends, so this really worked out well. We didn't have to worry about rain, everybody got a chance to run around and play in a Major League park and we played better."
Bay, which also edged Grafton, 4-2, on Monday behind a three-hit, nine-strikeout effort from Charlie Markson, went into Tuesday's tilt with league-leading Nicolet (13-8 overall and 6-6 in North Shore play).
"We're at the halfway point," Wojcinski said, "and all I told the guys is that it is not how you start that counts but how you finish that matters. With us hosting the (WIAA) sectional this year, it's important that we finish well."
There were a lot of highlights about the Metrodome trip, but the biggest one had to be sophomore second baseman Mike Leckie socking a two-run homer to left. It was estimated at 375 feet, Wojcinski said.
The other main highlight was senior Charlie Knipper going six for seven in the two games including two triples and a double.
In the harrowing June 24 win over Cedarburg, the Blue Dukes had a 4-0 lead going into the seventh behind Kevin James, but then several errors allowed the Bulldogs to tie it. But two walks and an error set the stage for Markson in the bottom of the frame and he delivered with a line drive game-winning hit down the leftfield line.
Bay will host West Bend East at 5:30 p.m. today.
Brookfield Central got major contributions from newcomers Brad Leachy and Zach Teuscher in rallying past the host Highlanders squad Friday night, 9-4.
Sophomore Leachy pitched five effective innings in earning the win, while junior Teuscher ripped a line drive, two-run single in the fifth to break a 4-4 tie and give the Lancers the lead for good.
It was Teuscher's first hit of the season.
The win improved the Lancers to 22-4 overall. Homestead (14-5) regained its footing a bit with a complete game effort from Mike Collins in a 6-3 win over Port Washington on Monday night.
Highlanders coach Ernie Millard, whose team also dropped a frustrating and messy 15-11 decision to North Shore rival Cedarburg on June 23, was clearly troubled by the sloppy effort against Central that included four errors and eight walks.
Central had a 3-0 lead when the Highlanders exploded for all of their runs in the fourth as Mark Schlifske golfed a two-run double to left center, Geoff Hilt had an RBI groundout and Andrew Holtorf hit an RBI double of his own to make it 4-3 Homestead. However, the good times were not to last for the Highlanders, as Teuscher's hit highlighted a three-run effort in the fifth that gave Central a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Leachy then got out of a two-on jam in the Highlanders half of the fifth with a pop-out and a strikeout before giving way to junior Ryan Hinz in the sixth.
Millard will continue to look for wheat among the chaff as his team struggles for consistency.
"We still have a lot of work to do," he said. "I believe we have all the pieces in place. We've just have to get it done."
Brown Deer baseball
It was a rugged week for the young Falcons, as they dropped four games to fall to 2-8 in Woodland play and 6-11 overall.
The Falcons put in a good effort in falling to host Pewaukee, 6-4, on June 26. Brett Youngbeck had two hits while Kyle Okray took the loss. Doug Kozak had six strikeouts in a relief effort.
On June 25, Brown Deer took a 3-0 first inning lead, but then were overwhelmed by visiting St. Thomas More in a 12-3 decision. The Falcons managed just two hits on the night, as the Cavaliers pounded out 13 hits.
In a hot doubleheader at New Berlin Eisenhower on June 23, the Falcons were cooled off by the Lions, 11-2, and 12-7. In the opener, Joey Mattefs, Youngbeck and Chris Smith all had two hits apiece as Kozak gave up six runs in five innings of work.
And in the nightcap, a seven-run third did in the Falcons. Smith had three hits and scored three runs while Kozak had a triple and two hits.
The Falcons will be at New Berlin West at 5 p.m. today.
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