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, June 16 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 6 1/3 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."
Stasiak retired the last 13 batters he faced and finished with six strikeouts and one walk and also knocked in the first Bay run in the fifth with a bloop single.
He's an example of the deep pitching staff that Bay has relied on through the first half of the season. The Blue Dukes have four shutouts and four one-run games allowed so far this season.
Leaders of the staff include veterans like junior state diving champ Joe Kaszubowski, senior Nick Lackney, junior Adam Fuda, senior Cal Gavic and Stasiak. Fuda threw an openiong day no-hitter when the refurbished Counsell Field was dedicated.
"The guys have pitched well in almost every game we've played all season," said Wojcinski. "We had a slug-fest with Jefferson (a 13-11 win) early but that was about it." Helping the Blue Duke pitching cause is that at least three of the starters are lefties.
Returning position players include sophomore catcher Teddy Weber, Gavic at first, junior John Leckie at second, Stasiak at short and the four-year letterwinning DeMuth at third.
Lackney will patrol centerfield while Kaszubowski will handle right and junior newcomer Sam Koziol will be in left. Junior Henry Davies and senior Kirby Annis will also help out in the outfield and sophomore Andrew James returns at DH.
Stasiak, Gavic, Lackney, James and Koziol will lead the offense.
Wojcinski said there has been energy and enthusiasm right from the start.
"They've been together since the first open gyms," he said. "They're a bunch of guys who have set out to do something and want to make sure that it gets done.
"The biggest thing right now is our competitiveness. We've had a couple of games where we've been down but the guys have fought through it. Nothing much bothers these guys."
And as noted, the team is motivated.
"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."
Bay had a huge game on Tuesday with West Bend East, which gave the Blue Dukes their only conference loss on May 29. The Blue Dukes, who had 12 of their first 13 games at the shiny, new Counsell Field, are in a run of six of seven games on the road.
They will be at Grafton on Thursday, June 19, host West Bend West on Friday, June 20 and will be at Port Washington on Monday, June 23. All games are at 5:30 p.m.
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