A North Shore Conference title, something that hasn't happened in 22 years for the Germantown baseball team, got another step closer to reality Thursday night, as pitcher Brian Keller and catcher Danny Krause each hit three-run homers in leading the Warhawks to an 8-0 rout of Nicolet.
"We're not looking ahead or looking back," said Krause, also the team's leadoff hitter. "We knew what we had going into the season, it was just a matter of putting it all together and getting it clicking."
"Something like that (the league title) would mean a lot. I think we have an excellent shot at it."
The victory improved the Warhawks to 12-2 in North Shore play and 15-7 overall. They still have four league games left including a make-up tilt back at home Friday at 5:30 p.m. at home against Port Washington.
Traditional NSC power West Bend West continues to lurk close behind, with an 11-4 NSC mark (16-8 overall).
"It would be nice," said Warhawk coach Jeff Wolf of the conference crown. 'Having said that, all we're thinking about is Port Washington."
Germantown also earned the second seed in the WIAA Cedarburg sectional. Greater Metro Conference leader Menomonee Falls (22-3) claimed the top sectional seed. The tournament starts Tuesday, July 10 with both Germantown and Falls earning first-round byes.
With the win Thursday night, Germantown improved its North Shore Conference win streak to 10 games. Their last league loss had been to Nicolet on June 11.
A major keynote to that success has been the pitching of Keller. It was the second straight week where he has thrown a second game on just two days rest. He has allowed just three runs combined in those four games including two shutouts.
"Having Brian on the hill makes life a whole lot easier," said Krause. "A lot of fun too and we get along really well. We've been friends since we were really little."
But now the pair are bigger and stronger and leading the Warhawks towards potential glory.
Krause got things going for Germantown in the second against the Knights (4-10, 8-14). As has been a problem for Nicolet all summer, a throwing error allowed the Warhawks' Zach Kumbier to reach second and he was singled home by Taylor Klopatek for the first run of the game.
Another error allowed Louis Tuszynski to reach and that set the stage for Krause, who blasted a 2-0 pitch from Knight starter and loser Ryan Korngiebel high over the leftfield fence at Ritzenthaler Dream Field in Germantown for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.
"That's the story of our season," said Knight coach Dick Sykes. "We have two outs, and then we get an error and before you know it they have five straight hits and four runs. We did play hard after that, but we just can't keep having those kinds of mistakes."
Krause's blast was more than enough for Keller, who allowed only two hits to the Knights while striking out six with no walks over six innings of work.
Further, Keller helped himself in the fourth as he himself launched a three-run homer to left that scored both Tuszynski (on by error) and Krause (single). First baseman Blake Fleischman followed that with a solo blast to right to make it 8-0.
Wolf was pleased with the solid effort and noted that he's keeping a watchful eye on the workload of his UW-Milwaukee-bound ace Keller.
"I don't think he's had a game with over 80 pitches in it," Wolf said. "He's been allowing only one or two hits a game and he very rarely walks anyone so his pitch count never gets up there."
"We've come to expect good things when Brian is on the mound. We want to play good defense behind him and hopefully, we take advantage of opportunities the other team presents us."
"And we're doing that. The guys are hitting with such confidence right now. Their pitch selection at the plate has been excellent. We're hitting the pitch we want to hit."
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