Nicolet catcher/pitcher Sam Kohnke won't say he's in a bit of a home run competition with his teammate and fellow NOW All-Suburban selection Brian Huntsinger, but the grand slam that Kohnke belted far over the left-centerfield fence at Stormonth Monday night to all but clinch the Knights' 12-2 five-inning rout of area rival Whitefish Bay, did bear a strong resemblance to Huntsinger's "grannny" that finished off a win over Germantown last week.
Even his comments were similar to the strong "team first" attitude that Huntsinger adopted after that win over the Warhawks.
"Yeah, we're in a bit of a competition," laughed Kohnke, who was serving as DH this game, "but seriously, this is the time we have to bring it together. We want to start rolling and play as a team. Play good, fundamental baseball and just get the job done."
And that's what the Knights appear to be doing, as they rode starter Max Kramsky's strong, five-inning (three strikeout and three walk) effort to their 21st win of the season against just 10 losses. They are battling for second in the North Shore Conference at 11-5 with two games left to play.
Kramsky, who transferred back to Nicolet for this his senior season after living up in the Appleton area for two years, is happy to be part of this strong stretch run.
"I try not to leave anything on the table," said the hard-throwing right-hander, who will attend Upper Iowa University on a baseball scholarship. "It's been great to come back here and play baseball with these guys. I played with them for 10 or 12 years (before moving) and it was a great coming back to finish things off with them."
"And there's still room for him to improve," said Knight coach Dick Sykes.
For Blue Duke coach Jay Wojcinski, it was another lesson in a competitive, though occasionally difficult season for his young squad. The Blue Dukes left the game at 6-9 in league play and 15-16 overall.
"We just got beat by a better team tonight," he said. "They hit the ball hard, played better defense and with Kramsky throwing the way he was, they were just way better than we were."
It didn't appear that way in the third, when the Blue Dukes Mike Leckie ripped a two-out double off Kramsky to score both Pat Rose (double) and Jeff Kerr (walk).
But that was to be the high point of the night for Bay, as the Knights took the lead right back in the bottom of the third as Huntsinger (three hits and three RBI) tripled home two runs and Kohnke knocked him in with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2 Nicolet.
Blue Duke starter Justin Alt fought hard, but tired in the fourth, as the Knights put the game away with a seven-run, five-hit outburst. Huntsinger had an RBI single and then a batter later and with the bases loaded, Kohnke hit what could only be called a majestic shot that disappeared into the night sky over the North Shore.
The inning was book-ended by a double from freshman second baseman Tyler Crass and an RBI single from freshman catcher C.J. Putterman, who was brought up for this game.
Nicolet invoked the 10-run "mercy" rule in the fifth when first baseman D.J. Peltz singled home senior shortstop Brandon Zall. In the top of the fifth, the Knights turned a nifty 6-4-3 doubleplay with Zall, Crass and junior first baseman D.J. Peltz involved.
"Justin (Alt) didn't have his best stuff tonight and he fell behind in counts," said Wojcinski. "When you do that, you have to come with fastballs and these guys are a great fastball hitting team."
"Good things happen when you get the lead-off man on," said Sykes, which the Knights did in three out of the five innings this night.
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