Pitching depth promised to be one of the chief reasons Kettle Moraine qualified for the state tournament should the Lasers get that far. Power turned out to play just as big a role Monday in the WIAA summer baseball sectional final at Brookfield Central.
Austin Wolf stroked a two-run homer in the second inning, and KM’s mound staff -- including two huge innings from Wolf -- made it hold up in a 3-0 win over Milwaukee Pius, mere hours after the team topped Brookfield East in a semifinal game, 2-0.
The Lasers advanced to face New Berlin West in the state semifinal at Kapco Park in Mequon at 3:15 p.m. Friday. The state championship game follows. The Lasers have been to state twice before and most recently in 2008, with the program’s lone state title recorded in 1988.
"It's been the same story all year," KM coach Brian Adamczyk said. "When we made moves, moving to a different person or different position, they played as one. They picked each other up and that's why they're here."
Wolf’s blast against Pius starter Pete Hofman came at a key time after Dom Nabak led off the inning and reached second on an error, only to still be standing on third base with two down. The No. 8 hitter in the Lasers lineup pulled a fly ball to right that scraped over the fence – so close that Pius coach Kevin Kehoss asked umpires to confer and ensure the ball didn’t bounce first.
"It was an outside pitch curveball," Wolf said. "I just extended and took a hack. I was thinking, 'Is it going? Is it not?' I wasn't really paying attention, I was just running. I was actually trying to hit that pitch oppo, and he hung it."
From there, it was up to Lasers pitching, and it was Wolf who authored the biggest moment of the game.
Brady Durni worked around a leadoff double in the fifth but ran into immediate trouble in the sixth when Brendan Bullock’s double put runners at second and third with nobody out. That compelled KM to summon Wolf, who worked three innings in the semifinal, and he walked the first batter he faced.
"At the end of that (semifinal) game, I told coach I felt OK, and he's got confidence in me to know that I mean it," Wolf said. "He put me in and got the job done."
Wolf struck out Jalen Fischer and induced a 4-6-3 double play to emerge from the big-time jam.
With Kettle Moraine’s top two pitchers, Wolf and Keith Koehn, both eligible to pitch but coming off workloads in the semifinal, Adamczyk turned to junior Matt Melbye against a speedy Pius team that had found a way to solve Tosa West ace Austin Jones – a state Player of the Year candidate – in a 4-2 semifinal win.
Melbye struck out five batters in four innings, allowing no runs on three hits.
"There's nothing like it," Melbye said of the win. "I don't think I've ever been part of something that happy."
With two on and one out in the third, Popes power threat Vinson Mulvey laced a liner to center that Nabak speared and turned into a double play with a runner attempting to steal from second.
"In the outfield, they not only get good reads on the ball, but they have speed and great arms," Adamczyk said. "That helps our pitchers with their confidence, knowing they can go out there and we have (strong) outfielders and infielders."
After Chris Trafton added an insurance run with an RBI single in the sixth, Wolf pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to lock up the victory.
"I'm in disbelief right now," Wolf said. "I can't believe it. This is what we wanted."
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