Nicolet baseball coach Dick Sykes thought about emptying the water bucket before the end of the Knights 7-0 North Shore Conference title clinching win over host Homestead Tuesday night.
But he didn't and as he was addressing the team shortly after the game, infielder Rob Mayer and an unknown teammate snuck up with the bucket in hand and drenched Sykes' back, much to the delight of the rest of the team.
"It was sitting there and I told myself to empty it, but I didn't," Sykes said. "I also told them not to celebrate too much or get me wet, but being high school juniors and seniors, they didn't listen to me."
"I guess I was just glad they had the chance to do it."
Indeed, because the story of these junior-laden Knights (14-2 in league and 24-3 overall) is being written in anything but a dry fashion as they won their first league title since 2006.
They've been motivated much of the season to play with verve and focus after being picked for seventh in the North Shore pre-season polls and that showed up Tuesday night, just a day after their 14-game winning streak was ended in a flat non-conference loss to Greendale.
They were anything but flat against their archrivals from Mequon. Take pitcher Andy Allen, one of only three seniors in the starting line-up (outfielders Thomas Appleby and Sam Smith being the other two).
He survived a shaky first inning (a walk and a single) and then dominated the Highlanders the rest of the way with an eight-strikeout, three-hit performance. He didn't allow a hit after the third inning.
"This feels especially good," Allen said, "especially after people picked us to finish where we did. There's absolutely some very good chemistry at work here. We like each other and we hang out together. We get good coaching and we respond to it."
Sykes rated Allen's effort especially high.
"That was a Jon Stallsmith style performance," he said referring to the ace of the 1998 state champion Knight team. "One of the best I've seen in 20 years."
And Allen also helped himself with the bat, getting on twice, scoring once and providing the final touch to the victory with a two-run single of his own in the seventh.
He was also aided by tremendous defensive work from his largely junior teammates.
There were doubleplays turned in the third and fifth and second baseman Sal Maniscalco made two plays, one spectacular, one merely very good. The spectacular one came in the fourth as he ranged far into right-center and reached high to grab a dying quail of a ball hit by Highlander catcher Mitch Hauser.
The juniors also led the way offensively, as the Knights took advantage of two Highlander errors to score four runs in the second to take control of the game. Brian Huntsinger knocked in three of them with a booming home run to center off starter and loser Mike Collins.
Huntsinger said his class has had a confidence about itself ever since eighth grade, when it won the state Little League title and then acquitted itself well in the regional playoffs.
"We realized at that point that we could play with anybody," he said. "I don't think it's overconfidence or cockiness. It's just a knowing that we can hang with any team we play against."
Even Homestead coach Ernie Millard, whose team lost for the eighth time in nine games (9-9 in league and 16-13 overall), was impressed by the Nicolet effort.
"I tip my hat to them," he said "That's a very good ballclub out there. I watch them and I listen to them and they just seem to do all the little things right. They've got a nice bunch of battlers on that squad. ..A really classy team."
Sykes knows that for a fact.
"This was a nice way to win it," he said. "We were relaxed and focused. We picked up the ball and made the plays. I know we'll see them (the Highlanders) again (maybe in WIAA sectional play), but for now, we'll take this and enjoy it."
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