The recent run of success continued for the Grafton baseball team in 2016.
Despite losing a number of key seniors from 2015, the Black Hawks stayed on the winning side this season, posting an overall mark of 18-9 and going 11-7 in the North Shore Conference to tie for second place with Cedarburg and Homestead.
Grafton then downed Homestead, 3-0, to win a WIAA regional crown, then dropped a tough 2-1 game to eventual state champion Menomonee Falls in sectional action.
"I am proud of what we accomplished," head coach Brian Durst said. "We did have a number of players with experience back, but we graduated eight seniors from the year before.
"I think we exceeded expectations from those outside of our program; we may have surprised some people. It is gratifying from a coach's standpoint to see team success like this."
Lukas led the way
One of the big keys to the Hawks' season was senior pitcher Adam Lukas, who was a standout both on the mound and at the plate in earning second-team all-state honors by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association and first-team all-North Shore at utility.
Lukas went 9-2 with one save as the ace pitcher, working 53 ⅔ innings with a 1.17 earned-run average, 62 strikeouts and 35 walks. Opponents hit just .153 against him this season.
He also batted .403 with 31 hits in 77 at-bats, including six doubles, a triple and three home runs. He drove in 20 runs and scored 16 more, compiling a slugging average of .623 and an on-base percentage of .477.
"Adam made sure we stayed competitive this season," Durst said. "In the three years he was on varsity, we won 70 percent of our games. He elevated the level of play for the team, and he will definitely be missed."
Lukas plans to attend and play for Evansville (Indian) University on a scholarship.
Senior Ben Mason was another big figure for Grafton, hitting .434 in the conference and .382 overall with 18 runs and 18 RBIs. He put together a slugging average of .408 and an on-base percentage of .453 (.508 in North Shore play) and won second-team all-conference honors.
"He was a three-year varsity player, and the salutatorian in his senior class," the coach said. "He is a model team player and a true leader on the varsity."
Junior infielder Noah Chopp batted .333 with 16 runs and 16 RBIs in earning honorable-mention all-conference. Defensively, he racked up 61 assists from his shortstop position.
"His work ethic and game preparation are second to none," Durst said. "He loves the game and understands it well."
One surprise this season was senior pitcher Drew Brandenburg, who did not work on the mound at all as a junior but gave Grafton a solid second starter with a 7-3 record and 2.70 ERA, plus 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 62 ⅓ innings. He also earned honorable-mention all-North Shore.
'He was one of the true bright spots on our team," Durst said. "He had an outstanding season. He is a true competitor, and he kept us in the game every time out."
Also receiving honorable mention were senior outfielder Charlie Potter and senior infielder Grady Bauer, and Durst said the Hawks also received valuable contributions from junior Caleb Horvath, junior Haden Fisk, sophomore Evan Agnew and junior Drew Donahue.
Grafton loses six seniors in Bauer, Brandenburg, Lukas, Mason, Potter and pitcher/outfielder Connor Neeck.
"Chopp, catcher Jack Pawlak and Zach Brandenburg will be back," Durst said. "Zach can swing the bat and handle varsity pitching."