"Historically we've really struggled over the years (against Germantown)," said Homestead coach Ernie Millard.
But 2014 is different. Homestead has turned those historical struggles against Germantown around this year, now with three wins in as many meetings. Friday's was the biggest, when the Highlanders beat the Warhawks in the WIAA summer baseball regional final, 5-2.
"Today was by far the cleanest that the two teams have played," Millard said. "The key was that when they made mistakes we managed to push runs across the plate. We put a couple of guys on for free that scored for them, but we didn't make any defensive mistakes."
On the other side, Germantown committed two errors that lead to the second Homestead run. In the second inning, pitcher Jared Stieve struck out on a ball in the dirt, but Germantown catcher Tyler Kloss threw the ball away trying to complete the punchout, and Stieve was able to advance to second. Another error off a bunt by Luke Neusen allowed the courtesy runner, Adam Stadler, to score.
"We just weren't as good defensively against them for whatever reason, and they're too good of a team to give three bases in extra outs," Germantown coach Jeff Wolf said. "In all three of those games, they made us pay every time we made an error or walked somebody or hit somebody. It came back to bite us."
Trevor Cho's RBI single in the first scored Ian Koch to give Homestead its first run. Germantown answered quickly in the top of the second off a single by Alex Kumbier that scored Zach Benn from second.
Homestead broke through to score the three decisive runs with two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Mike Schulz drove in Cho and Mitch Sutton with a two-run single and later scored on a single by Stieve.
Those runs, along with some good defense behind him (including a diving catch at third by Sutton) was all that Stieve would need. He allowed an RBI double from Brady Slaasted in the second but nothing more.
"I just tried to throw first pitch strikes to get ahead in the count and trust my defense, because I knew they'd make plays behind me," said Stieve.
Of course, Millard does see room for improvement from this game heading into the sectional, where Homestead will battle No. 6-seeded Menomonee Falls at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Cahill Park in Whitefish Bay.
"We have to have a better approach at the plate, not striking out as many times as we did today ... it had to be almost 10," Millard said. "If we strike out 10 times, we are not going to beat anybody."
Fortunately for Millard, his team only struck out 9 times Friday. Now, the Highlanders are off to the sectional.
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