It was a heck of a birthday for Whitefish Bay baseball pitcher Cole Stasiak.
And teammate Turner DeMuth gave him the biggest gift of the night on Monday night as he blew out the candles on upset-minded Germantown's hopes with a laser-beam of a solo home run in the top of the seventh that broke a 1-1 tie.
Stasiak then said "thank you" by putting down Germantown in order in the bottom of the seventh to secure an important 2-1 victory.
"It was a nice day," said Stasiak, who also led the offense with four hits. "It was a kind of game that we've been playing. A lot of close ones. ...It was nice that we could pull it out. That guy (the Warhawks' Danny Knutson) had our number tonight. We definitely didn't do what we normally do (hit the ball), but we found a way."
The win improved the Blue Dukes to 8-1 in North Shore play and 12-2 overall and ran their winning streak to nine games. They sit just ahead of Homestead (6-2) in the league standings. Meanwhile, Germantown fell to 2-4 and 5-7.
Bay coach Jay Wojcinski was pleased with the tenacity of his team on a challenging evening.
"On a day where their pitching was better than our hitting we found a way to get it done," he said, "but credit Cole. He kept the ball down, hit his spots and kept them off-balance."
Stasiak finished with six strikeouts and one walk.
Meanwhile, because of a slow recovery to an injury, Germantown's Knutson was making his first start of the season and delivered a badly needed dose of stability for the Warhawks.
He went six-and-a-third innings with three walks and one strikeout and his only real mistake was DeMuth's home run.
"This was a great game," said Warhawk coach Jeff Wolf. "I told them after the game that I never like losing and that I'm not a big believer in moral victories, but we played with an effort and heart that I wished we had since game one. It was just that we lost to a really good team tonight."
The win was important to Bay in another way as it kept momentum heading into Tuesday's league tilt at West Bend East at 5:30 p.m. The Suns gave the Blue Dukes their only NSC loss of the season with a 7-2 decision on May 29.
Like they have all season, like they did tonight, the Blue Dukes will rely on a very deep pitching staff. The Blue Dukes have four shutouts and four one-run games allowed so far this season.
Stasiak and Knutson looked like they were heading towards a mutual shutout early on. Knutson was steady and got help from catcher Sam Essmann , who threw out DeMuth trying to steal third in the second.
Germantown nicked ahead in the third, bunching hits by Joey Sykora and Tyler Kloss along with an error on the Blue Duke first baseman to score its only run of the game.
Along with the only walk Stasiak issued, the Warhawks had the bases loaded later in the frame, but Stasiak induced a fielder's choice to end the threat.
Bay had first and third with one out in the fourth, but Knutson got out of it with the help of a pop-out and a line-out.
Bay finally tied the score in the fifth as John Leckie singled, was sacrificed over to second by Henry Davies and after a groundout and a walk, Stasiak looped a dying quail of a single to center to score Leckie.
The Blue Dukes had a chance at seizing the lead in the sixth using a single and a walk to put runners on second and third, but Knutson induced a groundout to get out of the threat.
"Danny did a really good job of keeping the ball down and throwing strikes," said Wolf, "especially considering he didn't have his real good curveball for the first five innings. He really kept the best team in the league off-balance."
But not forever. After Knutson got the first out of the seventh, DeMuth, a four-year letterwinner and lead-off hitter for the Blue Dukes, came up and turned on a Knutson inside fastball and sent the ball quickly out of the Ritzenthaler Dream Field for the go-ahead home run.
"It felt really good coming off the bat," said DeMuth.
The birthday boy Stasiak then made it stand up as a line-out to short and two strikeouts ended an impressive run of 13 batters put down in a row as he was able to finally close out the pesky Warhawks.
He said he just needed a dose of confidence and a good talking to in that shaky third inning.
"I had to have a talk with myself and then I talked to Turner (at third base) and that calmed me down," he said.
"Six strikeouts and just one walk and four hits, not a bad birthday," said Wojcinski of Stasiak.
Right now, the Blue Dukes want to keep a good balance. No one knows when the team last won the North Shore Conference and this experienced team wants to create a memory no one will ever forget.
"We're going to take this as high and as far as we can go," DeMuth said. "We're going to play this carefully, win as many games as possible and worry about everything else afterward. We had two guys drafted (by the majors) in the same year (Kevin James and Charlie Markson), but we've never won conference.
"That has to change."
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