Sometimes when a team gets beat soundly, its coach will just tip his cap and say "We got beat by a better team".
But in the case of the Homestead baseball team's 10-4 victory over visiting Germantown Thursday night at beautifully refurbished Rennicke Field, winning coach Ernie Millard said he sort of felt sorry for Germantown, because the Warhawks handed the Highlanders opportunity after opportunity courtesy of six errrors.
"They (the Warhawks actually came out and played well at the beginning), but then they had one bad inning (the fifth, with three errors and five Homestead runs) and we took advantage," said Millard. "We were able to score but we didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball."
The win came on the heels of a completion of a suspended game between the two squads that was played at Germantown. In that game, the score was 11-11 in the top of the 11th and Homestead used three hits, including a Bryce Juedes RBI single and a passed ball to score two runs in that frame to pull out a 13-11 win.
Then the two teams boarded their buses and headed down Mequon Road to Rennicke Field for a regularly scheduled game on a rare beautiful June night.
It was a discouraging night to say the least for Warhawk coach Jeff Wolf.
"Just too many mistakes," he said. "I'm just a little disappointed by our lack of mental toughness when things don't go our way. This team needs to do a better job of overcoming adversity."
The twin wins give Homestead four victories in a row and improved them to 10-4 in the North Shore Conference, good for second place behind Whitefish Bay (12-1). The Highlanders are an impressive 17-5 oiverall.
And given the youthful pitching staff Millard has at his disposal, all he could say about that mark was "Wow!"
Meanwhile, the Warhawks fell to 3-7 and 7-10, respectively.
Germantown actually had some control in this game, taking a 2-1 lead in the top of the third scoring a run on two hits, a walk and a balk.
The Highlanders tied the score in the bottom of the third with the help of a hit and two errors. Starting pitcher Danny Knutson actually made a nice play on a bunt with two men on when he threw out the lead runner at third. Then he left two men stranded with a strikeout looking.
"He was actually doing pretty well," said Millard of Knutson. "He was a lefty and he made life tough for us." Knutson threw five innings with three strikeouts and two walks.
Germantown rewarded Knutson in the top of the fourth as Alex Kumbier singled in two runs for a 4-2 lead. But Homestead got out of any further damage as after another hit, the Highlanders threw out a runner at third on a 9-6-5 putout.
A Jared Stieve groundout scored Eric Wade who had doubled as the Highlanders cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fourth.
Chris Mueller came on two replace Highlander starter Eric Skaar in the fifth. Skaar had picked up the win in the suspended game by pitching a scoreless bottom of the 11th and then turned around and started and won the regular scheduled contest.
Mueller then threw three scoreless innings with four strikeouts as the Highlanders rallied for the win.
In the five-run fifth, Mueller tied the score a flyball error and then Luke Lebesch gave Homestead the lead for good with an RBI single.
But the key play came when Wade hit a hard shot at the Warhawk third baseman. It should have been an easy out at the plate as it was a contact play but the Germantown player got a little anxious and threw wide of his catcher. Two runs scored on the play.
The Highlanders got some icing on the cake in the frame when courtesy runner Ian Koch scored easily from third on a called steal of home. The play wasn't even close.
"They weren't really paying any attention to him and we decided to go for it," said Millard.
In his long and successful career, Millard has kept a mental track of how many times he's called that particular play.
"And we've been successful 22 of the 25 times we've tried it," he said.
It was 8-4 Homestead after the frame and centerfielder Luke Neusen added two insurance runs in the sixth on a two-run single.
"He's been struggling," said Millard, "but he's been starting to figure it out lately."
Mueller was praised for his excellent long relief work. He allowed four baserunners in the last two innings but wasn't seriously challenged.
"Chris has done a fantastic job," said Millard, "and he's done an excellent job of mixing his pitches. He's lovable in an eccentric way (laughs) but everytime he's come in, he's thrown strikes.
"If you had told me that at the start of the year that he'd be the key to our long relief, I would have been shocked, but he's just unflappable."
Wolf just wishes the Warhawks would learn a little of that trait.
"This is a tough game as it is," he said, "but when you give a good team like Homestead so many extra outs, it makes it just about impossible."
Lebesch and Mitch Sutton had two hits apiece for Homestead as Zach Benn, Justin Powalish and Nick Schneider did the same for Germantown.
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