The Cedarburg baseball team sprung one of the many first-round upsets in the WIAA summer baseball tournament, downing Nicolet by a 4-2 count in eight innings July 11.
Alex Russo's two-run single against a drawn-in infield in the eighth inning provided the difference, scoring Alex Kluck and Ethan Weaver.
The Bulldogs held a 2-0 lead in the sixth when Nicolet's Daniel Schiff delivered a game-tying two-run homer.
"We were a dangerous team coming into the tournament because we hadn’t played well yet," CHS coach Jack Friess said. "The question was which team is going to surface: the team that has the potential to play very well or the team that has been up and down all season? We felt good about this game, and we had split during the season. We knew mistakes or clutch hits would make a difference in the game, and it was very refreshing not to let down after the game was tied and come back in the eighth and make some good clutch hits. It's something we haven't done a whole lot of this season."
Johnny Gilette pitched perhaps the finest game of his career, throwing 86 pitches over the eight complete innings. he struck out three, walked one and let his defense do the heavy lifting.
That led to a battle July 12 against Menomonee Falls, the two-time defending state champion, and the Bulldogs very narrowly put an even bigger notch in their belt. But the 11th-seeded Bulldogs, with just seven wins this season, ultimately fell when Ryan Spalding's walk-off single to left in the seventh gave Falls a thrilling 4-3 win.
"We had them against the ropes and couldn’t land that final punch to put them down," Friess said. "They;re a very good team, but we played well the final week of the season."
Dayne Fuiten's stand-up double with two outs in the seventh set the table for Falls.
In the top of the fifth with two outs, Gilette singled to center to score Sam Tomashek. A batter later, Kluck hit a line drive to left to score Jared Antonneau and tie the game.
Friess felt his team responded well after it trailed early in the game.
"It's very easy to get intimidated playing this group," Friess said. "Very easy. I don't think our kids were. I was very proud of the way they competed. This week, we just showed how we can play when we don't do some things out of the box you scratch your head about. I thought we competed really hard and had them right on the edge."
After Falls scored again in the fifth to reclaim the lead, Cedarburg's Nick Johnson drove in Alex Russo to tie the game at 3-3 in the sixth.
"We had frustration throughout our whole year," Friess said. "There was anger, frustration — I think if you say the word, we probably had it. Sometimes the kids just get frustrated with that. One good thing about them is they didn't quit. They showed this week they have a lot of heart and left everything on the field today. We just came up a little short."
Antonneau, Gillette and Russo contributed two hits each for Cedarburg, which will graduate just four seniors.
Grafton's late rally just short
Grafton, seeded 10th, plated two runs in the seventh but fell to Kewaskum in the regional opener, 4-3.
Kewaskum scored twice in the sixth to take a 4-1 lead, but after the first two Grafton batters reached in the top of the seventh, Jack Pawlak doubled with two outs to score both and put the tying run in scoring position. Kewaskum's Cole Surprenant entered the game and retired the next batter.
Pawlak finished with three hits, and Drew Donahue added a pair. Haden Fisk took the loss despite throwing a strong six innings.
Port falls in opener
Tanner Orten's sacrifice fly plated an early run for Port Washington, but West Bend East took it from there in a 5-1 victory. The Pirates, seeded 12th, collected just three hits against the fifth-seeded Suns.
-- JR Radcliffe contributed to this story