Germantown - Germantown baseball coach Jeff Wolf called his kids "even better people than they are baseball players" after the Warhawks tagged Whitefish Bay, 8-0, on July 3 to clinch their first North Shore Conference title in 22 years.
But no one would have begrudged him if he had a bit of a change of heart a few moments later after seniors Danny Krause and Louis Tuszynski hit him with a celebratory sneak attack of a water cooler bath.
"Woah, that actually feels good," laughed Wolf after the game that was conducted in 95-plus degree heat at Ritzenthaler Dream Field.
Good feelings all around
And everyone was indeed feeling good about the first outright league baseball title since 1990. They finished things out cleanly in the North Shore with an 8-5 win over West Bend West on July 5 to conclude North Shore league play at 16-2 (20-9 overall).
West (12-6, 17-10) and Cedarburg (12-6, 14-7) finished in a distant tie for second.
The Warhawks will now set their sights on WIAA tourney action. They earned the second seed in the WIAA Cedarburg sectional and received a first-round bye. They will host the winner of seventh-seeded West Bend East and 10th-seeded Grafton in a regional final on July 13 (TBA) with the winner heading over to Cedarburg on Monday for sectional play.
If advancing, the Warhawks would play the late semifinal (1:30 p.m.). The championship game, with a berth in the WIAA State Tournament at Kapco Field on July 20 at stake, will be at 4:30 p.m.
The Warhawks advanced to state in 2010 with an upset of Menomonee Falls. They might have to do that again as the Greater Metro champion Indians are the top seed in the sectional.
An event that would be as unexpected as it is welcome in the regions north of County Line Road.
Fulfilling title hopes
On the other hand, Germantown's NSC title was hoped for and expected this season, and the second-year coach Wolf, who shared in several championships as an assistant for the powerful Nicolet program for several years, laid the groundwork early.
"Back before the season began, I took them for a look-see of the conference championship banner in the gym," he said. "I told them to look at it closely and then I said 'That's our goal.' This is a good championship, because I think the conference is as deep as it's been in awhile. For us to go 15-2 in it is impressive.
"It tells me that we showed up every day and that we played in a very consistent manner. I'm very proud of the guys."
And that's when he made that remark about them being good people, only to get doused with the cooler moments later.
But the emboldened seniors were reflective and quiet when asked what this title means to them, to be part of this particular piece of history.
"We always knew that we had the talent," said pitcher and designated hitter Brian Keller, whose 9-0 shutout of West Bend East the night before clinched a share of the league crown. "We just had to play as a team and take it all by ourselves."
"We always believed in ourselves, we always knew that we could do it," said outfielder Jimmy Doedens, who had several key hits in the Warhawks 2010 state tournament run. "We just had to go out and prove it."
Early lead against Bay
And the Warhawks did that on July 3, as they seized control of this pivotal game with a four-run first against Blue Dukes starter Justin Alt.
Senior catcher Danny Krause started things with a single and then a stolen base. After Doedens singled, Keller hit into a fielder's choice, which brought in Krause. The offense starting the game is all winning pitcher Ryan Anderson would need.
But Germantown tacked on further runs in the frame on a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly by another senior Jordan Kuczynski and an RBI single by senior Tom Andrus.
Insurance runs were tacked on in the third, fourth and sixth, but Anderson wouldn't really need them, as the senior turned in arguably his most impressive effort of the season, with a complete game three-hitter that included only one walk and three strikeouts.
He even helped himself out in the fifth, by getting out of a first and second, one-out situation by initiating a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play.
"I really would like to compliment Ryan," said Wolf. "He sort of gets lost in the Brian Keller (UW-Milwaukee recruit) spotlight, but we wouldn't be here without him."
Keller was impressed.
"He was just out there doing what he does best, doing what he loves," he noted of Anderson's effort.
Team's sparkplug also pleased
Krause, the team's catcher and sparkplug, was among the most pleased about this turn of events.
"This feels good," he said. "We had a little bit of a rocky beginning, but we kept moving forward. … Now that we have this out of the way, we can start tending to other things, like maybe getting to state and winning a state championship."
And speaking of those lofty aspirations, Wolf could only laugh as he carried his soaked self toward the dugout, because he knew that his wife, Corey Wolf, could offer some expertise in regards to that little matter.
She is the same Corey Wolf who recently retired as Nicolet girls basketball coach after leading the Knights to the 2011 WIAA state championship.
"I think I'll talk to my wife about how we go about winning a state title," Wolf chuckled.
Other games this past week:
Germantown 4, Franklin 2: Zach Kumbier got the rare start for the Warhawks and made the most of it against the two-time defending state champs on July 7 as he struck out four, walked two and scattered only six hits. Germantown staked him to a 4-0 lead with two runs in the first and two in the fourth as Flesichman had two hits including a home run and two RBIs while Krause had two hits including a triple. Kumbier gave up only solo runs in the sixth and the seventh as Germantown finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak (eight of the last 10 overall).
Germantown 8, West Bend West 5: On July 5, the Warhawks and the Spartans were tied at 4-4 going into the sixth before the Warhawks scored four runs to take the lead for good. Fleischman had three hits and two runs scored while Krause continued his torrid hitting with two hits and two RBIs. The Warhawks used three pitchers in this game with Mike Knippen throwing two innings of relief for the win and Fleischman earning the save. Germantown won its last 14 league games in a row.
Germantown 9, West Bend East 0: The Suns were helpless against Keller on July 2, as he ran his record to 8-1 on the season (7-1 in league games) with a complete game five-hitter. Unofficially, after this game, he has a 79-5 strikeout to walk ratio. He had eight strikeouts against no walks and got help from a spotless defense. Flesichman had two hits and two RBIs while Keller contributed two hits and Zach Kumbier knocked in two runs.
GT baseball the first in a generation
1990 was the last time around for Hawks
COACH RITZ ON THE 1990 CHAMPS: This team is etched into Germantown lore, as it shared the program's only other North Shore co-championship with Grafton. The Chuck Ritzenthaler coached squad included multi-sport stars like former Warhawks coach Parrish Wagner, Tim Olszewski (later an All-Suburban selection in baseball), Chad Meier (quarterback on the football team) and Andy LeTourneau (All-Suburban basketball player) along with Ben Mallon, Ryan Peck, Tim Bauer and Frank Wilson. Meier, Olszewski, Wagner and LeTourneau handled pitching duties among other matters.
"That was a talented bunch of kids," said the retired legend Ritzenthaler, "and they got better because they were multi-sport athletes."
Ritzenthaler also likes this current bunch too. "They play well together," he said. "They're having a great, great year."
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