As expected, Catholic Memorial advanced past Brookfield East in the opening round of the WIAA summer baseball playoffs. But the 4-2 score line wasn't typical of a matchup between a 3-seed and a 14-seed.
Playing at Infinity Field in Waukesha on July 15, the Crusaders scored twice in the sixth inning to break a tie ballgame and moved on to face Mukwonago on July 18 in the regional final.
"I was nervous," Catholic Memorial pitcher Eric Brown admitted, "but I knew our guys would come through. We've played well in tight games so far this year, so I knew we'd make big plays, come up with clutch hits like we did today."
Jake Shomin was hit by a pitch from Brookfield East pitcher Brad Carstens in the sixth, then took second base on a wild pitch. A sacrifice bunt from Brown saw Shomin to third, and a sacrifice fly from Schulze brought him home.
"I just wanted to get a good at-bat, work the pitcher a little bit, but luckily, the first pitch I was hit by a pitch and then after that, we executed," Shomin said. "That was the key all game. We didn't execute in the beginning, but when we did execute in the sixth inning, that's when we put some runs across. It feels great, knowing that our season gets to continue and move on to Friday."
Chandler North followed that up with a big double that ricocheted off the fence, and he was brought in by a single to far left field from Cameron Krausert to make the score 4-2.
"Bottom of the sixth, we had the bottom of the order up," CMH coach Tim Gotzler said. "They're good hitters. I knew we just had to get something started. We struggled to execute getting bunts down today, but we did some things on the bases to create those opportunities. I knew when we got some sacrifices down that we'd be able to push a run across."
A two-out walk in the seventh for East went for naught when Brown induced a game-ending fly out off the bat of Dan Magyar.
"They were battling at the plate," said Brown. "I was just looking to make a pitch and put them in play, make my defense make a play. The defense played great today. They're a great team over there. I knew that it'd be a tough battle. We're lucky to come out on top today."
After a scoreless first inning, East nearly drew first blood in the top of the second. Andrew Holmes singled before Dustin Brah hit the ball up the middle. A bad throw to second base resulted in both Holmes and Brah making it safely to their respective bases. Jake Smith then singled over second base to load the bases with just one out.
East's next batter, Jake Pagel, hit the ball hard, but Memorial right fielder Teddy Sibilsky snatched the ball out of the air and tossed it to first for the double-play.
In the bottom of the inning, East was made to pay for missing its opportunity. Brown walked, and his courtesy runner Eric Fridl promptly stole second base. A two-out triple from Krausert brought Fridl in for a 1-0 lead, and Krausert stole home to put his team up, 2-0.
Memorial's lead was short lived, however, as East's first batter, T.C. Swittel, hit a double up the middle. He later trotted home on a passed ball, and after Alex McGuire walked and stole second, another run came around on a wild throw to tie the score at 2-2.
"You've got to block those things out, forget about them," Brown said. "They battled back in that inning, but you can't let that get in your head, because that could come back to haunt you later, so I just tried to focus in, forget about that, and make pitches."
Carstens pitched the entire game for East and struck out nine batters.
"He was up there in pitch count," said East coach Nicholas Wycklendt, "and I think that might have gotten to him a little. He started leaving the ball up a little more and letting the lead off runner get on base is never a good thing, but he battled through that all game long and just left one too many pitches up for them to score a couple runs on. What I was proud of was how we came back in the seventh and had a chance to get the tying run on base."
East will head into next season knowing it possessed a young team in 2014.
"Brad, our pitcher, and our third baseman, they were the only two seniors that we have on this team," Wycklendt said. "They have another year under their belt now, and if they keep improving like they did in this season throughout the year, hopefully we have bigger things to come."
Catholic Memorial's game Friday will be back at the Five Diamonds complex for a 7 p.m. first pitch. Mukwonago held off CMH in a late-season Classic 8 Conference game July 8, 4-3, and has won two of three meetings this season.
"It's going to be a great game," said Shomin. "We know these guys, they know us, it's going to be fun."
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