Astounding regional defeat to Port Washington ends Homestead season
Pirates score six times in seventh
Not in Homestead baseball coach Ernie Millard's worst nightmares could he have foreseen the disaster that befell him and the Highlanders in their stunning 6-5 season-ending WIAA regional semifinal defeat to Port Washington on July 10.
Bad execution, bad calls and a simple failure to close the deal caused the third-seeded Highlanders (20-8), who had high hopes of making a strong run toward a WIAA state tournament berth, to lose a 5-0 lead in the sixth. It was then that the 14th-seeded Pirates, who won all of three games this season, scored six times in the top of the seventh to steal the victory.
Millard, who does not speak about the officials often, was dismayed at the ugly end of the season and was unhappy with the play of his team. But he did not throw his players entirely under the bus, pointing out some responsibility in a different direction.
"I've never seen umpiring go so bad in one inning before," he said, noting that the strike zone changed drastically in the space of one frame.
Pitcher Jake Erfourth had been cruising up to that point, but then a walk, a single, a single, a double and another walk chased him. Millard then brought in Austin Ralph, who got a strikeout, another walk, a single and another walk as the Pirates completed their astounding comeback.
In the midst of all this, third baseman Mitch Sutton slipped and fell while fielding what would have been a routine effort. He unfortunately dislocated his shoulder on the play, resulting in all hands being safe.
In the bottom of the seventh, two fly outs were followed by a walk. Erfourth had one great cut at a pitch, but then was called out on strikes on what Millard called two "horrible" calls, one in the dirt and one up at his neck.
"I was proud of Jake," Millard said. "He handled himself well in that situation. Much better than the adults (himself included) did."
The Highlandersbuilt their lead on a Sutton RBI double in the fourth, followed by a Bryce Juedes run-scoring single. Alex Bristol cracked a solo home run to left in the fifth and Max Heinrich had an RBI single in the fifth.
Homestead tried to put the sad defeat behind it quickly.
"I saw the kids the next day," Millard said. "We had a home run hitting contest and a good time all afternoon...It's just that we'd put in so much time together that makes this such a tough pill to swallow."
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