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Homestead's 1994 state title was never easy

Millard brothers at the core

July 29, 2014

Each state championship won in any sport has its own back-story, its own complications.

And 20 years ago, the 1994 Homestead WIAA state baseball champions had it all, a talented senior class a legacy to fulfill, some indiscretions that had to be overcome, a moment of truth, and an older brother coaching a younger brother.

None of it was easy as veteran Highlander coach Ernie Millard was just in his second year with the team and had as his team ace, his younger brother Ethan.

It was, as they say, complicated.

"I had seen this group since before I moved there (to Mequon)," said Ernie. "They were good and they had been playing together eight or nine years."

Ernie can tick off the starting lineup off like these guys were still showing up to Rennicke for a game today.

Jason Monfre, Danny Klug, Mark Kruse, Tom Schmit, Bryan Scott, Tim Gollup, Scott Helms, Nick Foshag, Brian Bocher, Andy Moroder, Bill Dermody, Kevin Nemoir and of course, Ethan.

They could win games, but not enough of the big ones during the regular season to win a North Shore Conference title. Furthermore, as kids, they got distracted and a couple of them, including Ethan, got suspended for a time.

It looked like the season was going to unravel. Ernie pointed to a couple of turning points.

Not surprisingly, he remembers getting emotional

"I think we came together in the next to last regular season game with Grafton," he said. "We went 10 innings and we never even finished it. At the time we weren't getting along very well as a team. We had a talk at the awards banquet (which was held before the WIAA tourney) and I tried to get them to realize that this was their last moment.

"I was saying 'good-bye' to my brother and all his buddies. I think they finally got the idea that 'Holy Cow, this is it'. The talent was always there."

An impression was made.

"I remember it all," said Ethan. "I remember being a little overwhelmed by the entire situation, not understanding the magnitude of it all. And no, it wasn't fun for a time, maybe that was a good thing. A couple of us, myself included, had made some poor choices (resulting in the suspensions).

"That banquet was emotional, because we knew that this was it.

"We knew we had the talent because we had been together since we were 12 years old. So as soon as I and another guy did the time (the suspensions), we got square with the rest of the team and we started jelling just at the right time."

The pitching staff, led by Ethan, Helms, Monfre, and Nemoir became lights out. In two home game regional victories, the Highlanders blanked Whitefish Bay (6-0) and Menomonee Falls (3-0) and then beat Wauwatosa East (8-5) and Franklin (4-0) in the sectional, earning their first state tournament berth since the second of their then two WIAA state titles in 1978.

They scored four runs in the first against West Allis Central and then Ethan, who gave up 13 hits to the Bulldogs, held on against a desperate rally to earn an 8-6 state quarterfinal victory at Bukolt Park in Stevens Point.

"I remember Ethan just being on fumes at the end," said Ernie. Little brother also contributed a home run that game.

In the semifinal against Platteville, a five-run second did the trick as Monfre started and Helms got the win in relief.

The final against Ashland was anything but a mop-up as Nemoir started but after giving up three runs in the fourth, he gave way to Monfre. Monfre stemmed the bleeding and allowed the Highlanders to rally, including a clutch three-run homer by Kruse in the bottom of the fourth to make it 4-3 Homestead.

The game then got complicated.

Dermody, who switched off playing shortsop with Monfre, dislocated his finger later in the game and had to come out. Moroder, who had been a DH, came in to play short.

"And almost immediately he (Moroder) gets a one-hopper and throws a guy out at the plate," said Ernie.

The end of the game had drama too, recalled Ethan, as there was a runner on first in the seventh with a hitter who hit a home run earlier in the game.

"I've to talked to Jason (Monfre) about this many times," Ethan said, "but for some reason, the ump desperately wanted to ring up the kid who was batting (with two out in the seventh) and he got him on a really low strike."

And with that 4-3 victory, many sins were purged and a wish was fulfilled.

"I don't really recall it being a sense of urgency," said Ethan, who like his brother is now a teacher. "Maybe it was more of a situation that we just loved each other too much to let it go. No one was worried about impressing anyone else and all our fates were sealed as far as college was concerned.

"We just decided to let it go."

Ernie was all of 29 at the time and now, later this year, he will turn 50. He's put the title in perspective. He understands what Ethan is talking about when he mentions the love for one another and not wanting to let go.

"The time just goes by really, really fast," he said, "especially if we're paying attention. In perspective, we all love winning so much. When you're young like we were then, you see it as a validation for everything. Then as time goes by there are things that go on that reveal that the real motivating factor is not necessarily the winning but the relationships.

"Those are the things that are really special."

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