Behind Sam Kohnke's gutty 10-inning pitching performance and key two-run double in the 10th, the Knights outlasted host West Bend West, 9-6, Monday night to maintain a three-game lead in the North Shore Conference baseball race.
"We've got a bit of a cushion," said Knights coach Dick Sykes. "If we continue to take care of business, we'll be all right."
The win improved Nicolet to 10-2 in the North Shore and 21-2 overall. The Knights took on Cedarburg Tuesday, and then will complete a suspended game at Slinger at 4 p.m. and then play a regularly scheduled tilt with the Owls, both Thursday.
They will still have make up games at home against Germantown at 5:30 p.m. Monday and then at Homestead at 8 p.m. Tuesday. WIAA sectional seeding meetings are slated soon. The Knights are a likely number one seed in the sectional to be hosted by Whitefish Bay.
Kohnke allowed only two earned runs and threw just over 120 pitches in the gritty effort over West. An uncharacteristic four-error inning by Nicolet in the fifth helped West tie the game. Andrew Allen had two doubles in the game for the Knights.
On July 2, Allen threw a six-inning, three-hit, 10-0 shutout against host Grafton, as he struck out seven and walked just one. Nicolet didn't commit an error and scored in four of six innings, as Nino Ianello had four hits with a triple, Brandon Zall two hits and three runs scored and Tom Appleby two RBIs.
Bolstered by a visit from Milwaukee Brewers infielder Craig Counsell earlier in the afternoon, Nicolet baseball took advantage of mistakes by Counsell's alma mater Whitefish Bay and cruised to a surprisingly easy 12-2 rout of the Blue Dukes on June 30.
"Frank (Klode, current Nicolet assistant and former long-time Bay head coach) arranged it," Knights coach Dick Sykes said of Counsell's visit, "and everyone really appreciated it. There were no autographs. Just a real nice talk from a great guy."
Nicolet invoked the "mercy rule" in the fifth by scoring seven runs on five hits with the benefit of four walks and one costly error.
Allen highlighted the frame with a moon ball of a two-run homer off the roof of Stormonth School. He also brought in the last run of the game on a bases-loaded walk. Brian Huntsinger and Kohnke also had RBI singles in the inning.
Bobby Herrick picked up the win, finishing with six strikeouts (including the side in the second) and two walks. He also induced a nifty 4-6-3 double play in the fourth.
Sykes likes what he sees so far.
"We only have four true letter-winners back from last year," he said. "It's a little like some of our better teams in the past. These kids really like each other."
He would like the team to string a few more good efforts in a row.
"We control our own destiny," he said. "We don't have to worry about anything else except what's in our own backyard."
Taking a major step up competitively, the Falcons outlasted Woodland Conference North Division leader New Berlin West, 8-6, on July 2, ending the Vikings 12-game winning streak and concluding a positive week that also included a doubleheader sweep of Shorewood on June 30.
"It really helped that Kyle Okray got the ball over the plate solidly for the first six innings, and that we were able to make just enough plays behind him," said Brown Deer coach Mike Donahue."
Joey Mattefs then put the side down in order in the seventh to preserve the win for the Falcons, who started the week at 10-11 overall.
Brown Deer will host Greendale at 7 p.m. Thursday and then will visit Shorewood in a 5 p.m. game Friday at Hank Aaron Field.
The Falcons rapped out 12 hits and took advantage of four West errors in the pivotal road win. Brown Deer had a 7-4 lead after four innings and then held on from there. Mattefs had three hits including a triple and a double while David Kuczynski, Danny Korpela and Okray all had two hits apiece.
"That was a good win," Donahue said.
Erik Berbaum threw a five-inning, five-hit 10-0 shutout in the opener of the twin bill against visiting Shorewood as Kuczynski had three hits including a home run, while Brian Michalica also had three hits and Mattefs and Okray had two apiece.
The Falcons had 15 hits in that first game and 19 in the 16-6 rout in the second game. Doug Kozak scattered nine hits in that six inning game with seven strikeouts. Brown Deer won despite six errors. Korpela had four hits, while Michalica had three and Brett Youngbeck, Mattefs, Scott Luedtke, Okray and Kozak two apiece.
Donahue said that the scores were not indicative of how competitive Shorewood was.
"They're a much better team than people think and that will show up down the road," he said. "They'll beat some people."
A five-run first inning allowed the Blue Dukes to ease to the finish line in a 10-6 win over visiting Slinger in a North Shore Conference tilt Monday.
The win gave Bay (16-9 overall) a modest two-game winning streak heading into the home stretch of the regular season and allowed them to further distance themselves from an embarrassing 12-2 defeat against rival and NSC leader Nicolet on June 30.
The Blue Dukes took on Homestead on June 30 and will host Port Washington at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and will visit Arrowhead in an 11 a.m. nonconference game on Saturday.
In the win over Slinger, Charlie Markson got the victory, despite giving up nine hits. He had eight strikeouts and five walks but helped himself with a double and a triple and three RBIs while Demuth had two hits and three RBIs and Kevin James and Jeff Kerr had two hits apiece.
Bay had preceded that with a messy 17-6 nonconference win over Marquette. The Blue Dukes had only seven hits in the game but took advantage of 10 walks and four errors. A 10-run third did the job for Bay.
Kerr had two hits and three RBI while Charlie Knipper and Garrett DeMuth had two RBIs apiece.
Jack Fagan had four strikeouts and three walks to earn the win in the five-inning effort.
With James on limited duty because he tweaked his knee in a win over Grafton the previous night, the Blue Dukes were flat in the loss to Nicolet.
In limited action James was hit by a pitch and drew a walk.
"It wasn't like we were in the conference race," Blue Duke coach Jay Wojcinski said. "He's basically all right, but I didn't want to take a chance with him pitching tonight. We have bigger games down the line, and the key for us is to play better and better."
Which it looked like the Blue Dukes were going to do in the top of the first at Stormonth Field, as Markson and Knipper both notched RBI hits to give the Blue Dukes a 2-0 lead against Knights starter and winner Bobby Herrick.
But defensive lapses, which have been an Achilles heel all season, came back to bite the Blue Dukes in the bottom of the first as an error and a misplay allowed Nicolet to tie the score. Substitute Bay starter Michael Burns deserved a better fate.
"They hit the ball but we have got to make the plays," Wojcinski said. "We simply can't give a team as good as that four or five outs an inning."
Nicolet took the lead for good in the second.
Brown Deer coach Mike Donahue said that the Greyhounds, who dropped a noisy twin bill to the Falcons on June 30, are a better team than most people think.
Then on July 2, the Greyhounds proved Donahue right, using senior Robert Duffy's fine pitching performance to defeat a good New Berlin Eisenhower team, 3-2.
"It was just a very well-played game," said Shorewood coach Tom Meyer. "He (Duffy) changed speeds well and did a great job overall. He had three strikeouts and allowed only three hits."
Duffy also showed calm under pressure, as the Lions put a runner on base in the seventh, but he ended the threat and the game by striking out the nine-hole hitter.
Shorewood (5-16) also backed Duffy up by committing only one error behind him. That contest was preceded by the completion of a suspended game with Eisenhower that the Greyhounds lost, 7-2.
"We just need to show a little more consistency," said Meyer.
The Greyhounds didn't have enough pitching to hold up against Brown Deer, giving up 34 hits in two games. In the 16-6 nightcap loss, Duffy had three hits while Malachi Krishok and Patrick Sellars had two apiece.
Shorewood will be at Greenfield Thursday and will host Brown Deer on Friday in a pair of 5 p.m. contests.
It's been a discouraging run lately for the Highlanders, who dropped a 10-4 decision to Germantown to fall to 9-5 in North Shore play and 15-8 overall.
The Highlanders beat West Bend West, 7-1, on June 30 as Casey Barnes threw a five-strikeout, no- walk complete game. Zach Enea (three RBIs) and Matt Lamers (two RBIs) each had two hits apiece.
But it was after that, that the difficulties began, as Homestead dropped a 2-1 decision to Slinger on July 2 as Brady Bingham's 10-strikeout, six-hit performance did not get the support it needed. Homestead coach Ernie Millard was so disappointed in his offense that he took a chance in the bottom of the seventh, sending a runner from third on a shallow fly to right to try and tie the game. The runner was thrown out to end the contest.
"I knew that in that instance, the runner was probably going to get thrown out seven out of 10 times, but I needed to do something to get things going," Millard said. "That one's on me. ... It was too bad. Brady pitched a great game. We just didn't get the job done."
The Highlanders also dropped a 6-5 nonconference decision to New Berlin Eisenhower on Friday, as the Lions (15-9) put together four consecutive hits in the bottom of the fifth to score three runs and take the lead for good.
Doug Mueller took the loss as Joey Stoll had two hits.
Homestead will host Waukesha South at 8 p.m. Thursday and then will be at Waukesha South for a 7 p.m. tilt on Friday and then will close out the week with an 11 a.m. contest on Saturday at Wauwatosa West.
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