New Berlin West wins first state baseball championship
Team blows lead then wins 11-6; Philipps closes out game
The baseball was hit to New Berlin West senior second baseman Kevin Marx, who tossed it to junior first baseman Andy Knoll, who squeezed the precious commodity — then Kapco Park went crazy.
Every Vikings player threw their gloves in the air and raced toward the first base line where there was a huge pileup, as these players, including seven seniors, had a chance to celebrate something no other New Berlin West baseball team has done — win the first WIAA State Baseball Championship in the school's history.
After winning the semifinal game, 7-6, in the bottom of the eighth inning over Kettle Moraine (25-6), the Vikings clinched the deal, 11-6, over West Bend West (24-9) in the championship game, also in eight innings.
Taking in the title
While the players celebrated and the fans rushed to the front row of the stadium to be as close to their heroes as possible, veteran New Berlin West coach Tom Farina and his coaching staff took in the celebration.
"They did everything that you would expect a good baseball team to do," said an emotional Farina. "And for our school, it means a lot to our school to have this — as you can see by the fans who showed up.
"I'm almost speechless. I love these kids. I love what they stand for. I love what they do and what we stand for as a program. I feel we are the state champions for all the baseball teams that came through New Berlin West. They won it for them as well.
"I've been all a part of it for 13 years. As we were getting that last out, it was going through my mind, all those players — somewhere when they find out about this — they are going to be extremely happy for us — knowing that it's also for them, for our school, for our New Berlin West family. We're proud of them."
Senior seals the win
Everywhere you looked there was a hero, but it was a senior and a sophomore who shared the spotlight.
It was probably appropriate that senior Mike Philipps played a big role in both ball games.
His suicide squeeze bunt won the semifinal game, 7-6, in the bottom of the eighth inning over Kettle Moraine (25-6) and then he closed out the championship game by driving in the lead run in the eighth and finishing with 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and a run while not walking a batter and fanning three against the Spartans.
After the Vikings (26-5) allowed the Spartans to score five runs in the sixth inning to tie the game at 6-6, they bounced back and scored five runs in the eighth inning for the 11-6 lead and Philipps came out to the mound in the bottom of the inning.
Cool as a cucumber, the unsung senior went out and got lead-off hitter AJ Emerich to ground to Marx at second for out No. 1. Then he got Billy Anderson on a fly ball to Austin Fritz in left for out No. 2. Finally he got Ryan Morrison to ground the ball to Marx for the title-clinching out.
Blowing the lead
The Vikings almost had their dream season shattered.
They were rolling to the state title with a 6-1 lead before West Bend West took advantage of three walks by Fritz and three hits — two against Philipps, who came in with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth.
They scored five runs to tie the game, the biggest blow a bases-clearing double by Jacob Kopp off Philipps, the first batter he faced.
After neither team came close to scoring in the seventh, the Vikings came out in the eighth and blew the game open.
Bryan Watson singled, Marx sacrificed him to second and then Dave Tsolak struck out. No one expected what happened next.
Philipps singled in the lead run — on a bloop to right that fell between three players and took second on an error by the right-fielder.
West's offensive answer
Knoll and Sowinski walked and who else but sophomore shortstop Allen Peil ripped a single to left center, scoring Knoll and moving Sowinski to third, continuing to get a big hit in the playoffs every time the Vikings needed one.
Then Fritz helped ease the pain from a tough pitching performance (5.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 8 BB, 2 K), by drilling a single to center and scoring Sowinski and Peil for an 11-6 lead.
"I felt like I redeemed myself a little with that hit," Fritz said. "I was tired after playing the first game, but that is not an excuse. I didn't pitch well, had control problems."
When asked if Peil realized he was a sophomore playing on the big stage, Farina smiled.
"We're not going to tell him anything," Farina laughed. "We didn't tell him he's a freshman last year; we're not going to tell him he's a sophomore this year.
"All kidding aside, he's the real thing. He's going to be a good baseball player for two more years here and if anybody — if there's colleges watching him — if they're not, they should be — because he's going to play at another level."
In the third and fifth innings the Vikes scored three runs in each inning for a 6-1 lead.
In the third, the Spartans made two errors, a wild pitch and allowed four walks to the Vikings to account for most of the runs.
In the fifth inning the real Viking offense exploded.
Knoll singled, Sowinski moved him to third with a double. Up stepped Peil and he ripped a double to left to score both runners. Tyler Stephens, who played a great two games behind the plate on a hot day, then doubled in Peil for the 6-1 lead.
"We weren't happy that we blew the lead," Farina said. "But we said just go out and play baseball, win the game. And that's exactly what they did."
Player - AB-R-H-RBI: Mike Philipps LF/P (3-2-1-1), Andy Knoll 1B (4-2-3-0), Darrin Sowinski CF (3-3-1-1), Allen Peil (4-2-2-4), Austin Fritz P/LF (3-0-1-1), Tyler Oakland PR (0-0-0-0), Tyler Stephens C (3-0-2-1), Bryan Marx PR (0-0-0-0), Bryan Watson DH (5-1-1-0), Kevin Marx 2B (3-0-1-0), Dave Tsolak RF (3-1-1-0), Tim Rink 3B (0-0-0-0). Totals (31-11-13-8).
Pitcher - IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO: Austin Fritz (5.2, 4, 5, 5, 8, 2 BB), Mike Philipps W (2.1, 2, 1, 1, 0, 3).
Score by Innings R H E
New Berlin West...003 030 05 - 11 13 5
West Bend West...000 105 00 - 6 6 4
E - Fritz 2; Stephens; Tsolak; Rink. LOB - NBW (8); 2B - Sowinski; Peil; Stephens; K. Marx; SH - Philipps; K. Marx. SB - Sowinski.
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