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Germantown baseball team improved with defense, pitching

Coach sees hope with way team played down the stretch

Germantown senior pitcher Danny Knutson hurls a pitch toward home in a recent game. He helped the Warhawks turn in a 13-17 record this summer.

Germantown senior pitcher Danny Knutson hurls a pitch toward home in a recent game. He helped the Warhawks turn in a 13-17 record this summer. Photo By Michael McLoone

July 28, 2014

It's not how you start but how you finish that counts, and that in the mind of Germantown baseball coach Jeff Wolf makes the recently completed 13-17 season one to look back on with a bit of hope and not complete disappointment.

The Warhawks, who battled inexperience most of the season, had a four-game winning streak in the last week of the regular season. They dropped their last two regular season contests but then came up with an amazing 11-inning 3-2 WIAA regional semifinal win over Cedarburg before closing the campaign with a competitive 5-2 loss to eventual WIAA state runner-up Homestead.

Included in that streak had been an impressive 2-0 victory over North Shore Conference champion Whitefish Bay.

"This was something of an up-and-down season," Wolf said. "You can be a little disappointed because everyone's goal is to win conference and win state so a lot of teams feel that they don't live up to expectations, but that wasn't completely the case for us this year.

"We had some great wins (Bay and Cedarburg), but we knew that over the last few years we have had some terrific players. We have something seven or eight of them in college right now, including two at UWM (2012 NOW Player of the Year Brian Keller and Blake Fleischman). We had been a little spoiled. They were all great young men with baseball as their number one priority."

So graduation was bound to catch up with the Warhawks after back-to-back North Shore Conference championships. It hit the Warhawks hard early, especially in the field.

"Defense was our Achilles heel for the longest time," said Wolf. "We just gave up too many free bases, and with the tough non-conference schedule that we have, that will get you every time. You look at us towards the end of the regular season, the games we won, we played solid defense."

Finger leads pitching staff

The team was led by senior pitcher/utility player Randy Finger. The first-team All-North Shore Conference infield selection had not pitched since his freshman year but developed into the team ace with a 4-3 record with a 2.58 ERA (40 strikeouts and 25 walks). He took a little time to gain his confidence back with his curveball but once he did he became unhittable for long stretches.

Toward the end of the season he had a 16-plus inning scoreless streak, including a win over West Bend East and that shutout victory over Bay. That run was also part of a terrifically game 10-inning pitching performance in the regional win over Cedarburg.

He hit a team high .396 (40 hits in 101 at bats) with 14 doubles, 13 walks, 23 runs scored and 22 RBIs with one home run.

The team MVP and pitcher and hitter of the year, Finger was indispensable, said Wolf.

"He faced all the best teams and really kept us in games," said Wolf. "The only games he lost (pitching) were because of the defense. When he got that confidence in his breaking ball, teams didn't him him."

Others on team awarded

Other awards included team gold glove honors to junior catcher/second baseman Tyler Kloss and senior centerfielder Ben Eggert (no errors in 60 chances), junior utility player Nick Schneider (.293 BA) earning rookie of the year honors, senior pitcher/first baseman Jon Averkamp earning most improved honors and senior outfielder Joey Sykora claiming the Hawks' Eye Award for character and leadership.

Senior catcher Sam Essmann (.305 BA) and Eggert (.269) were highlighted for their big season-closing offensive efforts (Essmann had two hits and Eggert three in the win over Cedarburg). Wolf was very impressed with Eggert saying "the bigger the moment, the better he played."

Germantown finished with a team batting average of .280, a team defensive average of .931 and a team ERA of 3.92.

In terms of pitching, Averkamp, who came out for the first time in two years after highly successful forays into volleyball and basketball, finished 3-2 pitching with a team best 2.05 ERA. Senior Danny Knutson had a 1-2 record but with a nice 2.49 ERA.

Both the freshmen and junior varsity squads were competitive, said Wolf. He added that the seventh- and eighth-grade groups are talented with great potential.

Seniors included Brady Slaasted, Finger, Knutson, Zach Benn (.295 BA at shortstop), Sykora, Essmann, Eggert, Justin Powalish, Averkamp, and Nick Schulte.

"For the most part we had our challenges and struggles," said Wolf, "but we had good kids who understood their roles and were a fun group to coach."

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