Homestead baseball team is having fun entering WIAA tourney
Highlanders have won 10 of 12 games
Pitcher Colten Poellinger's scoreless streak ended at 41 innings for the Homestead baseball team in the second inning of a 12-1 win over North Shore rival Nicolet on Friday on, of all things, a throwing error by himself.
But more importantly, the triumph helped keep a far more vital streak for the Highlanders alive, as they entered this week's WIAA playoffs on a hot streak, closing out the regular season with a three-game winning streak and a stretch of 10 victories in 12 games.
Furthermore, the Highlanders are playing with a joy and energy that should make them a favorite in the upcoming WIAA sectional.
Take for example what happened on Wednesday, July 3, when a scheduled nonconference game with Wauwatosa West at Rennicke Field was just too wet to be played, so coach Ernie Millard and his West counterpart improvised.
Lightening the mood
"We had just come off a devastating loss to Cedarburg (7-6) the night before, and it was pouring out in Mequon, so I walked over to Chad (Mateske, the West coach) and challenged him to a wiffle ball game," Millard said. "Between the two teams, we had about 36 kids and we had wiffle balls and rubber bases available, so we just set it up in the outfield (at Rennicke) and the kids had a blast. We clobbered them 13-10 (laughs)."
Things like that have left Millard in a good frame of mind heading into the playoffs, especially for how the Highlanders reacted after the Cedarburg loss, a defeat that relegated them to a second-place tie in the North Shore (12-6 in league and 20-7 overall).
They routed Nicolet, then defeated both Sussex Hamilton (3-2) and Waukesha South (7-0) in a pair of Saturday games. The South game was Homestead's senior day as all nine seniors on the squad started.
Homestead has the third seed in the WIAA Cedarburg sectional. They took on Port Washington in a regional semifinal on Tuesday. If the Highlanders won, they would advance to a regional final on Friday back at Rennicke, likely against West Bend East.
The sectional is Monday at Cedarburg. If Homestead gets that far, it will play a sectional semifinal at 1:30 p.m., quite possibly against the second-seeded host school. North Shore champ Germantown is the top seed and the sectional final, with a WIAA state tournament berth on the line, is at 4:30 p.m.
Good chance, but it won't be easy
"With our pitching depth, I like our chances," Millard said, "but there are a bunch of really good teams out there though. No one is a shoe-in."
Homestead would be seeking its first state tournament berth since 2009.
Homestead 7, Waukesha South 0: The Highlanders scored all seven of their runs within the first three innings as Alex Fish went the distance and got the win. He scattered just three hits and had nine strikeouts with three walks. "He pitched great," Millard said of Fish. "It was a great senior night."
Homestead 3, Sussex Hamilton 2: Millard's junior varsity coach insisted that he had to take a look at JV ace Ben Garstecki on the varsity level at least one time this season, so Millard gave Garstecki a chance here. He did not let down, as he threw a complete game, allowing just four hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Homestead rallied for two runs in the top of the sixth to earn him the victory.
Garstecki got huge help from rightfielder Max Heinrich, whom Millard said ran down and made spectacular catches on at least three balls. "That was the story of the game," Millard said.
Homestead 12, Nicolet 1: In this five-inning game, the Highlanders scored four times in the first and never looked back. Poellinger, who ran his record to 8-0 on the year, struck out five with no walks, while allowing five hits. He had thrown six straight shutouts prior to this game.
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