The third inning proved big for Brookfield East on Friday evening, as the Spartans defeated the visiting Sussex Hamilton, 6-2, in the WIAA summer baseball regional final.
With the score tied at 2-2 to start the inning, East’s Patrick O’Brien hit a home run that gave the Spartans the lead and a momentum boost.
“They were figuring they were going to be in the game and we were figuring, 'OK, how are we going to break this open?'" East coach Bill Woodring said.
Drew Kehoe quickly followed with a double up the third base line. After Hamilton’s Mark Lunowa walked Brookfield East pitcher Griffin Lynch, Hamilton coach Mike Schramek brought in Mitch Mason to pitch, but that didn’t stop the Spartans. Sam Brunker walked to load the bases, followed by singles from Mike Eberle and Ryan Rouse to plate runs and make the score 5-2.
From then on, the Spartans defense didn't allow the high-scoring Chargers offense any additional runs. It was only the eighth time in 29 games that Hamilton had been held to two or fewer runs.
The key moment for the Spartans defense came in the top of the fourth inning immediately after the three-run third. With one out and Kyle Schiedemeyer on third, the Chargers attempted a squeeze play, but the East catcher Brunker was able to chase Schiedemeyer down for the second out of the inning.
“They had, in the past, squeeze played us several times,” said Woodring. “We practiced that for several practices, and when we pulled that off, getting the guy out, that’s really what brought us up emotionally. From there, we kept doing what we were doing and I don’t know if we were really worried about what they were doing.”
The Spartans scored another run in the fourth when Kehoe hit a fly ball that was dropped, allowing O'Brien to score and make it 6-2. Lynch pitched all seven innings and kept the Chargers off the score sheet in five frames.
“I got ahead of batters, and the defense helped out a lot in this game,” said Lynch. “We also scored enough runs. We’ve got a doubleheader on Monday so it’s really good that I pitched the whole game.”
“All the credit goes to Brookfield East,” said Hamilton coach Mike Schramek. “They played all three aspects really well. They hit the ball well, their pitcher did a nice job, and they played outstanding defense. Any time you can do that, you put yourself in a pretty good position to win the game. I don’t think that we did anything wrong or bad; the focus would be on them and how well they played.
"We were still within striking distance after the home run. We had the ability to put the ball in play and do some good things with that. The guys wanted to, it just didn’t work.”
Tim Biron drove in both Chargers runs, delivering a triple that scored Tyler Kozlowski in the first inning and a single up the middle that scored Kozlowski from second base.
The Spartans now head into Monday's WIAA sectional semifinal against top-seeded Kettle Moraine at Waukesha West, with the first pitch at 11 a.m. The winner plays again in the 7:30 p.m. sectional final back at West.
“I’m confident; I think we can win,” said Lynch. “We’re in a tough conference so I think we’re well prepared.”
Woodring added, “We can play with anybody. We have shown that we can play with Menomonee Falls, we can play with Oak Creek, we can play with anybody. I’m glad we have the opportunity now to show what we can do, whoever we play. We had a tough middle part of the season, but we’re putting it together at the end which is when we should be putting it together. We’ll give somebody a run for their money.”
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