Completing its dominant run through the Classic 8 Conference, the Muskego baseball team swept Mukwonago in three games last week.
The Warriors downed the Indians, 6-5, on July 5 in the completion of a suspended game and then beat them, 7-4, in the regular game behind seven runs in the sixth inning.
On July 6, they completed the sweep with a 15-5 triumph behind five-run outbursts in the fourth and sixth frames.
Muskego finished Classic 8 play at 18-2, a full six games ahead of runner-up Waukesha North (12-8), which it swept in four games this season. The Warriors won their final 14 conference games after a 4-2 start.
'We thought we would contend for the championship this year with the guys we had back,' coach Jacob Paige said.
Seniors led the way
He added that senior leadership was a big factor in the team's success.
'We had four three-year starters in Caleb Wagner, Michael Frasher, Brett Finke and Ryan Tobin,' the coach continued. 'They helped bring the younger players along.'
Muskego also has three top pitchers in seniors Jacob Breider and Jake Homan and sophomore Rob Zolecki, and they were all backed by a strong defense.
'This is one of the best defensive teams I have had here,' Paige said. 'Our pitchers generally don't get a lot of strikeouts, so the defense always has to be ready, and it played well.'
On July 5, Muskego tallied a run in the ninth inning to pull out the 6-5 victory in the suspended game, which had been halted at 5-5 after eight innings back on June 14.
The Warriors received a fair amount of help from Mukwonago, as the run came in on three walks and a wild pitch, with pinch-runner Zachary Schulz scoring.
In the regular game that followed, the Warriors fell behind, 4-0, before tallying seven times in the top of the sixth inning.
The inning began with two walks; then the seniors at the top of the order, Wagner, Finke and Tobin, all had key run-scoring hits, Paige said.
'The Mukwonago pitcher (Jordan Krueger) was good,' Paige said. 'He only allowed one or two hits in the first five innings, but we made some adjustments. We became more selective on pitches and more patient at the plate.'
Frankie Cistaro and Tobin each drove in two runs, and David Petfalski had two hits. Breider picked up the victory, with Zolecki finishing the last two innings.
Big innings helped
On the next day, the Warriors had several big innings in coasting past Mukwonago. Finke went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs batted in for Muskego, which collected 12 hits.
Homan pitched a six-inning complete game, allowing six hits with six strikeouts and four walks.
Muskego dropped a 9-6 decision to North Shore Conference champion West Bend West on July 8 to close out the regular season.
The Warriors had also lost two games to Greater Metro Conference champ Oak Creek, 10-3 and 6-5, on July 2. The Knights earned the top seed in the WIAA sectional, with the Warriors taking the second spot.
Muskego finished the regular season at 23-6 and will begin tournament play at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 15, at home against either Whitnall or West Allis Hale in a regional title contest.
The regional winner will play at 1:30 p.m. Monday, July 18, in a sectional semifinal at South Milwaukee, likely against Woodland Conference West Division winner Greendale or Woodland tournament champion New Berlin West.
The sectional title game is at 4:30 p.m. July 18 at South Milwaukee, and the winner goes to the state tournament on Friday, July 22, at Kapco Park in Mequon.
Remember last year
The Warriors dropped a 9-6 game to Whitnall in regional action last season, and Paige is hoping his team uses that game as a lesson.
'We remember that game, and we want to draw on that experience,' he said. 'We had many runners left on base, and we had a tough situation in one inning (Whitnall scored seven in the fifth to wipe out a 5-0 deficit) which we were not able to escape.'
Ryan Zizzo, Tobin and Finke combined for five hits and five RBIs in that contest.