Senior-dominated Homestead baseball team enjoyed 20-win season
Squad was pitching dominated
Homestead baseball coach Ernie Millard is not going to engage in a game of "what-if?" about the sad WIAA regional loss to Port Washington that closed what was an otherwise very solid 20-8 campaign for the Highlanders this summer.
He'll just enjoy the time he had with a large and engaged group of seniors who made the season fun.
"I'll take all of it," the veteran coach said. "A 20-win season, (a tie for) second in conference and nine seniors who put in a lot of time to make Homestead baseball a better place."
The season ended with a disappointing regional loss to Port Washington on July 9. Prior to that defeat, the Highlanders closed out the regular season with a run of 10 wins in their final 12 games.
Homestead had a spotty offense this season, but they also had great pitching depth, highlighted by WBCA first-team All-State selection Colten Poellinger, who turned in a record of 8-0 this season with an amazing 0.27 ERA.
"Colten did everything we asked of him this season and then some," Millard said.
Poellinger was also named North Shore Conference Player of the Year after a campaign that included six shutouts in eight outings. He played centerfield when he wasn't pitching.
But as much as was made of Poellinger, Millard also noted that other pitchers, such as seniors Jake Erfourth, Alex Fish and Austin Ralph, also helped along the way too, contributing big wins that helped Homestead turn in a 12-6 North Shore record, just one game behind now two-time league champion Germantown.
Included among those were Ralph's 2-1 victories over both West Bend East and Nicolet and Erfourth's 5-1 decision over Port Washington.
Erfourth carried a lot of the load offensively. He struggled in North Shore Conference play, hitting only .245 in conference, but he feasted on non-conference opposition to the extent of six home runs and 38 RBI and a .380 overall batting average. He was also the team's primary first baseman.
Thomas Fazio was another senior who had a big year, earning first-team, All-North Shore Conference honors playing primarily left and centerfield, hitting .386.
"He just continued to show steady improvement," Millard said. "From where he was mid-season last year to now, he has just been dynamite. He's one of the best two-strike hitters that I've seen and he's made great Willie-Mays'-style catches in the last few years because he gets such a great break on the ball."
An unsung hero for the Highlanders was catcher Ben Binversie, who was a tri-captain of the team along with Poellinger and Erfourth. Binversie won the team's Highlander Award for dedication and sportsmanship. Poellinger claimed the team MVP award and Max Heinrich was the most improved.
"He (Binversie) was one of the finest leaders that we've ever had," Millard said.
Overall, the list of seniors included Binversie, Mike Bradford, Alex Bristol, Erfourth, Fazio, Fish, Heinrich, Poellinger and Ralph.
The junior varsity had just three or four losses on the season, Millard said, and the freshmen were even better, with only one defeat.
Key returnees to the varsity include third baseman Mitch Sutton, shortstop Trevor Cho and outfielder Bryce Juedes. Sutton suffered an unfortunate shoulder injury in that final loss to Port and had to have surgery.
Others who Millard will count on include pitcher Ben Garstecki, utility player Eric Wade and catcher Luke Lebesch.
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