Five batters. That is all it took for the New Berlin Eisenhower to fall into a steep 5-0 hole to the No. 2-seeded Marquette University High School baseball team Friday night.
The top-seeded Lions found a way to hang around, but the early five-run deficit proved too much to overcome in the WIAA summer baseball sectional final at New Berlin West High School, with the Hilltopppers earning the 8-3 win and a berth in next week’s state tournament in Stevens Point.
“That first inning really killed us,” Eisenhower senior third baseman and pitcher Alex McRae said. “We hold them to maybe even three runs and we’re not playing from behind the entire game, specially against Nolan (Peterson), who is such a good pitcher.”
After a 7-3 win over New Berlin West, the Hilltoppers rode the momentum of playing back-to-back games with the quick start, which included triples by Peterson and Willie Bolles and a home run by Brandon Johnson.
“It had a little bit to do with the carry-over,” Marquette first-year head coach Sal Bando, Jr. said. “We were feeling good. We were loose.
“We were locked in mentally at the plate and put some good swings on some balls.”
Eisenhower coach Scott Schimmel turned to junior pitcher Eric Hesselbach and he was able to blank Marquette for the 3 and 2/3 innings he was on the mound.
That bought the Lions (25-7) some time to chip away at the deficit. McRae started it with a two-run double that scored second baseman Bryan Holmstrom and right fielder Dan York. Anthony Hintz followed with a single that scored McRae and made it a 5-3 game.
After that rally, Peterson, who was hitting upwards of 90 mph on the press box radar gun, was too much. He earned the complete-game victory, striking out eight while walking just two and allowing just six hits, four of which came in that third inning.
“We just couldn’t put it together in any other inning (but the third),” Schimmel said. “Even in that inning we needed some bounces to go our way to go our way. That’s a credit to Nolan on the mound.”
McRae did have a one-out double in the fifth and senior first baseman Jordan Sirek reached on an error to lead off the sixth, but nothing came of either offensive push.
“That third inning we were able to hit him, we just couldn’t do it again,” McRae said. “He just overpowered us pretty much.
“We always got a guy on base and he somehow worked out of every situation.”
Said Bando: “(Peterson) really showed he is a big-game pitcher.”
In the seventh inning, with a comeback on their mind, the Lions could not silence the Hilltoppers any longer as Marquette tacked on three runs to put the game out of reach.
The season is now over for the Lions, as is the high school playing career of McRae, who was on varsity for all four years. He will play baseball at Jacksonville University, along with Peterson, where the two will be roommates in the fall.
“Marquette has been the team that has stood in the way of us getting over that hump so many times for us before,” Schimmel said. “We just didn’t play as well as we are capable of playing and that’s the disappointing part.
“What we’ve accomplished is nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no problem with setting their goals high and coming a little short. To go to sectionals four years in a row and to win back-to-back conference championships, I can’t say enough about with this senior class has accomplished.”
Eisenhower 4, Pius 3
Senior catch Kyle Hegeman moved the New Berlin Eisenhower baseball team one game from the state tournament with his walk-off sacrifice fly to the left field corner in the bottom of the seventh inning against Pius.
Senior second baseman Bryan Holmstrom tagged up and scored the winning tally.
“It was a pressure situation and the guys came through by getting on base and putting the ball in play,” Schimmel said.
Pius (20-11) took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth before Hegeman scored the tying run on an error in the bottom of the sixth, setting the stage for the sixth inning.
McRae walked an unusually high four batters (he had walked eight all season entering the game) and got the win for the Lions/
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