The Nicolet baseball team could get used to this one-run win thing.
Because a week after losing three such games in a row, the Knights rallied from three runs down in the sixth inning to pull out a 7-6 eight-inning decision over North Shore leader Germantown on Thursday night at Stormonth Field.
It was the second such one-run decision in favor of Nicolet this week following a 2-1 win over Cedarburg on Monday and it is was definitely something that first-year coach Jason Grodsky would love to see more of.
"Yeah, it's a lot more fun being on this side of the equation," he said. The Knights improved to 5-7 in league play and 8-12 overall, while Germantown fell to 9-3 in league play falling into a virtually tie with Homestead and Cedarburg (both 10-4).
Grodsky worked hard to rally the troops after Germantown scored twice in the top of the fifth to take a 6-3 lead. The Warhawks got an RBI single from Joey Sykora and then Ben Eggert scored on the back end of a double-steal. In the fourth, shortstop Jordan Kuczynski had broken a 3-all tie with a two-out RBI single.
But the Knights would not falter. Grodsky could be heard calling from the dugout after the Warhawks had expanded their lead to 6-3: "There's no reason we can't score three of our own."
Nicolet didn't do it right away, but they did in the sixth, as the Knights finally nicked Germantown's returning NOW All-Suburban ace Ryan Anderson. After a walk and a bad-hop single put two runners on, Brett Keiper grounded out to third to score one run and cut the deficit to to 6-4.
A batter later, shortstop Tyler Crass belted a single to cut the margin to 6-5 and then catcher C.J. Putterman ripped another single to make it 6-6.
"I've seen a lot of those bad hop hits here (Stormonth)," said Germantown coach Jeff Wolf, who was an assistant for many years at Nicolet, "but you just have to give Nicolet credit. They fought until the end."
The Knights got big help from their bullpen, as sophomore Alex Braun relieved starter Hunter Crass in the sixth inning. He induced a nifty 4-6-3 doubleplay to end that inning and then allowed only one runner in the next two innings to pick up the win.
And the Knights finally got him that win in the eighth, as a game Anderson just could not put down one last Nicolet rally.
Keiper started it out with a one-out single and after a second out, Ben Henken got on through an infield single. Putterman walked and that set the stage for third baseman Nolan Wagner, who took a one-strike curveball and ripped it just outside the glove of a diving Germantown second baseman Joey Szopinski for the gamewinner.
"It was a curveball/cutter away and I just tried to take it to right," said Wagner. "He (the second baseman) got the tip of his glove on it but it got through. This feels great. We've lost so many of these games (by one run)."
Wagner credited Grodsky for keeping the team up after the Warhawks went ahead by three.
"He really got us fired up," he said.
"We just talked about where we've been all year long and how we've been in games like this time and again," said Grodsky. "...We just needed to keep our heads together and get in some good at bats. I was very pleased with the way we handled ourselves with two strikes."
Grodsky also praised the work of Braun, who has not started a game this season but who has done an excellent job in long relief.
"That's the second time in a row he's come in and got someone to hit into a doubleplay," said Grodsky. "He throws good pitches and makes them (the opposition) put it in play."
Meanwhile, Wolf will try to re-group his own troops. Due to a quirk in the schedule, the two teams will meet again on Friday, this time in Germantown.
"I know there are a lot of teams that would like to trade places with us," Wolf said. "We have five (conference) games left and they're all at home."
"It's all in front of us."
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