Fischer dazzles as Hamilton advances
Even after a 25-minute delay catalyzed by rain storms, the Hamilton baseball team was walking off the Rock Sports Complex field turf in Franklin just more than an hour and a half after first pitch Tuesday, mere moments before the rain began to fall again.
It was excellent timing, both on the part of Alex Fischer for mowing down Milwaukee Pius XI batters to expedite the 3-0 Hamilton victory, and on the part of a Chargers team that has more than rebounded from early-season struggles to play its best baseball at the right time of the year.
Fischer matched a season high with 15 strikeouts, a masterful performance that held Pius to a mere two runners in scoring position in the WIAA summer baseball regional opener July 15. The Chargers scraped across just enough, getting RBI singles from CJ Leffingwell and Mitch Hlava along the way.
Hamilton (14-15) kept rolling after eye-opening victories over Oak Creek and Brookfield Central in last week's Greater Metro Conference tournament. Next up comes the one team that did defeat HHS in that GMC showcase, top-seeded Marquette, in the regional final Saturday.
"It was very difficult for both of us as coaches and the guys because we knew that we had some talent," HHS coach Mike Schramek said of a team that started 2-9. "We knew we had the ability to compete at the beginning of the year. It just took us a while to figure out. But once we did, I think the kids are at a level where they understand they can compete. I'm very proud of them and proud of the fact that they persevered through that 2-9 start and didn't give up on the season. … It was an outstanding group of guys to work with. I couldn't be happier for them right now."
Fischer was nearly untouchable. After allowing a leadoff single to Pius' Jordan Farmer (the only batter to reach third base), he retired the next eight in a row. He retired seven in a row at another point in the game, including five straight by strikeout. In that mix was a 9-pitch, three-strikeout fifth inning in which he overpowered the bottom third of the Popes' order.
"I just had to work more with curves and keep the ball in the zone more, keeping everything believable," Fischer said. "I tried not to walk too many people and keep it around the strike zone."
He walked two batters and ultimately allowed four hits, though one was a pop fly that fell untouched between two outfielders.
"He's got a slider, an over-the-top curve, the fastball; technically, he has four pitches because he has a cut fastball that he'll throw when he's ahead in the count," Schramek said. "When he's got command of all his pitches, he's extremely difficult to hit."
Fischer struck out 12 batters against Oak Creek in the GMC Tournament opener, part of a lopsided Hamilton win on the artificial surface at Brookfield Central – a similar turf product to the one at the Rock Complex.
"When we play well on the turf at Brook Central (in the GMC tournament), it really helped our confidence out," Fischer said. "We're strong in the field as it is, and the turf just helps that out."
HHS sprinkled in just enough offense in to back Fischer. Austin Lee hit a booming double and scored on a poorly-thrown pickoff attempt at first base in the second, though Trent Metzger was ultimately thrown out on the play trying to advance from first all the way to third.
Leffingwell's RBI single brought home Lee in the fourth and left the bases still loaded with one out for the top of the order, but HHS did not score again. In the fifth, Hamilton had second and third with nobody out but didn't score and nursed a 2-0 lead into the seventh, when Ryan Warzon hit his second double of the game and scored a huge insurance run on Hlava's single.
"First couple times, I was thinking too much," Warzon said of his at-bats against Pius starter Max Resch. "The third time around I was getting used to the pitcher a little bit and came through.
"The the beginning of the year, we just struggled defensively," he added. "Now we're just bringing everything, the hitting pitching fielding, everything. We finally hit our potential."
Catcher Michael Barnes reached base three times, collecting two hits and also picking a leadoff runner off first base in the fourth. Lee reached base three times, Metzger singled twice, and Jack Geels also collected two hits. Eight of the nine starters reached base at least once.
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