Hear the joyful noise: Fleischman's hit lifts Warhawks to state baseball tourney
Germantown plays Waukesha West on Friday
Germantown - Warhawks first baseman Blake Fleischman couldn't hear the cheers after his long looping single to right-center easily scored swift teammate Danny Krause from second in the bottom of the eighth late on an oppressively hot Monday afternoon in Cedarburg.
He couldn't hear the excitement, the joy and the relief as his hit lifted the Warhawks baseball team to a 3-2 WIAA sectional final win over Arrowhead earning Germantown its second state tournament berth in three years.
"I'm personally a little deaf so I really didn't hear all the yelling, I didn't know we had won the game," he said after the awards ceremony.
That is, until he was mobbed by his happy, sweaty teammates, who had helped him rally the Warhawks from a 2-0 sixth-inning deficit against their Classic 8 Conference rivals.
"It went pretty much right over my head," said Krause, who had been hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second by fellow senior Jimmy Doedens. "I knew the centerfielder had been shaded the other way so I knew it was going to be down on the ground (for a hit)."
With the win, Germantown (24-9) advances to a WIAA state semifinal game at Kapco Field in Mequon on noon Friday against Waukesha West. The late semifinal features Oak Creek and Sheboygan Falls.
The dramatic victory was the third of four major goals this senior-dominated Warhawks team had achieved this season (conference, regional and sectional) with only the really big one, a first-ever state title still to be won.
Krause, a three-year starter at catcher, who along with the likes of the centerfielder Doedens and ace pitcher Brian Keller, were parts of the 2010 state team, thinks there's no reason why the Warhawks couldn't finish everything off with the biggest prize of all.
"Oh man, you work so hard to get there (state), so you feel you have to take advantage of your shot and bring it all home," he said.
As for Keller, who pitched an efficient two-hitter in beating North Shore rival Cedarburg, 8-1, in the semifinal earlier in the day (six strikeouts and three walks), and who had a storybook two-run single in the sixth to tie the score in the sectional final, he could only smile and say:
"We seem to have everything falling into place," he said as he looked down in amazement at the sectional championship plaque that he was holding.
But that was not the case for much of the final.
Arrowhead (23-10), which had upset the sectional's top seed Menomonee Falls, 7-4, in the first semifinal of the day, had scratched out a run in the first with the help of an error and then had Mitchell Dubnicka double in another score in the fourth for a 2-0 advantage.
For the longest time, that seemed to be enough for Arrowhead senior lefthander Jarek Petras (three strikeouts and no walks), who, after giving up two singles to start the game, put down 10 Warhawks in a row at one point.
After junior Warhawks pitcher Ryan Anderson got out his second straight, two men on jam in the top of the sixth, Germantown coach Jeff Wolf convened a quick meeting of his assistants by third base.
"Ryan (Anderson) was doing such a great job at keeping the game close," Wolf said, "that we just had to find a way to get runners in scoring position. We definitely felt that we had squandered opportunities in the semifinal and we just hadn't had any in the final since the first (inning).
"We had to give ourselves a chance to drive in some runs."
They got that chance in the bottom of the sixth as nine-hole hitter Louis Tusynski hit a hard cue-shot off the third baseman that he couldn't handle. Then, after Krause fouled out, Doedens engaged a little of the strategy that Wolf and the coaches had discussed.
He dragged a perfect bunt along the third baseline. The third baseman charged and made a barehanded pickup and throw, but it went wide of the bag at first, putting Tusynski at third and Doedens at second.
Enter Keller, who had two hits and an RBI in the semifinal win earlier in the day.
Long known for his lights-out pitching, Keller has been a very sound three-hole hitter from his designated hitter's spot for the Warhawks this summer.
And he got to prove it twice in the same at-bat. He jumped on Petras' first pitch for a screaming liner over third base that would have plated both runs easily (in fact both did run home).
But a late call from the third base umpire ruled it foul as Warhawks fans howled with dismay.
No matter to Keller, as a couple of pitches later, he bounced a "seeing-eye" single right through the box to tie the score.
"It looked to me like it was fair right down the line," Keller said of his first swing, "but unfortunately it wasn't. That didn't bother me, I was in the zone. I wasn't going to try to do too much. I was just looking to get a base hit."
And though the Warhawks were now energized heading into the seventh inning, things still wouldn't be easy, as Anderson had to fight his way out of another two men on jam, courtesy of an error and a walk.
But he got a fly out to Doedens in center and a hard chopper back to Fleischman to end the threat.
"Ryan and Brian are so similar in some ways," Wolf said. "They're both just so composed. They don't get rattled whether the bases are loaded and there's a 3-0 count or anything like that. We just have such confidence in both of them."
And Anderson returned the favor to his defense.
"I have all the confidence in the world in those guys," said Anderson, who pitched eight strong innings, scattering six hits with four strikeouts and four walks. "They're there for a reason."
Anderson's faith in his defense was justified again in the eighth, as with one out and a man on first, second baseman Zack Kumbier made a diving catch of a dying quail on the infield and then quickly flipped the ball over to Fleischman for an inning-ending double play.
But as noted earlier, Fleischman was only getting started with his heroics.
"I knew the pitch would come low and outside," he said of his pivotal eighth-inning at bat. "It's been a weakness of mine all season and I've been working really hard on correcting it . . . I just went up there thinking line drives. I had been struggling earlier in the day so I just wanted to make it up to the team."
And his coach and team were grateful for the effort as this particular achievement was to be heard far and wide.
"This all feels so great," Wolf said. "I'm just so happy for this group of young men. They're such great people, they work so hard, they're so unselfish and they really deserve this.
"Blake told me earlier in the year that they (as a group) have been talking about something like this (a chance at a state title) since they were 10 years old.
"We'll see about that. It would be very nice indeed."
AT A GLANCE
WIAA STATE TOURNAMENT
WHERE AND WHEN: Friday at Kapco Field on the campus of Concordia College, 12800 North Lake Shore Drive, Mequon
SCHEDULE: Semifinals - North Shore Conference champion Germantown (24-9) vs. Classic 8 co-champ Waukesha West (21-8) at noon; Greater Metro runner-up Oak Creek (26-7) vs. Eastern Wisconsin runner-up Sheboygan Falls (25-4) at 3:15 p.m. The championship game is at 6:30 p.m.
Oak Creek won three state titles in a row from 2003-2005 and is making its sixth appearance. It beat Germantown, 4-0, in a tournament earlier this season.
Germantown is making its third appearance and second in three years. The Warhawks beat Sheboygan Falls, 6-5, earlier this season and also two-time state champion Franklin, 4-2.
Waukesha West is making its third straight state appearance and eighth overall.
Sheboygan Falls is making its second straight appearance and fourth overall. The Falcons won the state title in 1973.
TWO RINGS?: Keller, Doedens, Kumbier and Jordan Kuczynski were all part of the state championship boys basketball team earlier this spring. When asked what he thought about another chance at a state title, Kumbier laughed and said "I think a second ring would fit pretty well."
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