WIAA Playoffs: Pewaukee's Ross goes the distance in small-ball regional win


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – No. 23 Pewaukee sophomore starter Grant Ross limited the Power 25’s No. 13-ranked squad, Catholic Memorial, to just four hits and one run in his team’s 4-1 regional semifinals win. His counterpart, one of the state’s best pitchers in the 2020 class, Luke Fox (Duke commit), was credited with an undeserved loss, considering all four runs he allowed were unearned.

The duel heading into the game went pretty much as expected, however. The two starters really had their best stuff and it made life difficult for every batter that stood in the box at Waukesha County Technical College’s baseball field. Ross pitched over a one-out single and struck out a pair in the top of the first, handing the game over to Fox.

In the bottom of the first frame, with one away, Fox walked Josh Geisel but swiftly picked him off for the second out in the inning. It looked like that was going to be it for the Pirates when Masen Beatty (Rock Valley JC) swung over strike three, but he raced to first on a dropped third strike and actually made it all the way home with the help of a passed ball and infield error later in the inning.

Those errors in the first handed Pewaukee a 1-0 lead that felt as if it was going to stand all game, the way Ross was pitching. After getting in a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the second, Ross retired 11 straight. Fox needed to leverage himself out of a self-made jam in the second, too, after walking a pair. He did, however, and he settled in as well.

Ross and Fox didn’t have much trouble from innings three to six, but in that sixth frame, Catholic Memorial rallied to tie it up, finally.

The sophomore righty had managed to punch out Ross in his first two at-bats, but Fox battled for a hard-earned walk to lead off the sixth. A sacrifice bunt pushed Fox to second and Chris Byhre Jr. muscled a line drive to left-center in the next at-bat to tie the game at one. Ross induced a double play in the next at-bat to keep the game knotted right there.

Pewaukee countered right away, however. The Pirates took advantage of a lead-off error with a small-ball strategy. The error put the go-ahead runner on second with no outs and a sacrifice bunt moved him successfully to third base. Justus Zemberi squared to bunt, too, and his short pop up landed right in front of an outstretched Fox who couldn’t shuffle it home in time to stop the go-ahead run from scoring. Luke Sopha’s hard single to right put runners on first and second and freshman Logan Dobberstein surprised everyone with a perfectly placed bunt single that stopped right in between Fox and his third baseman.

Fox was still working with his best stuff, and looked determined to pitch out of the jam that remained, but another passed ball scored the Pirates’ third run. A walk to Ross reloaded the bases which summoned in Byhre Jr. in relief. Yet another fastball found its way to the backstop, scoring Pewaukee’s third run of the inning, which gave the Crusaders just three outs to score three runs to keep their season alive.

Ross returned to the mound to finish what he started. A lead-off walk sparked Catholic Memorial’s dugout, but Ross dug in from here, earning a couple of quick outs, back-to-back, before he struck out the final batter of the game, acing a fastball on the inside corner to earn his team the 4-1 victory.

For Pewaukee, they’ll be back in action on Wednesday where they’ll meet Union Grove, the No. 11-ranked team on our Power 25. It looks like they’ll be sending their 6-foot-6 freshman Dobberstein to the mound, too – he’s also one of the better pitching prospects in the 2022 class.

And for Catholic Memorial, it’s an unfortunate early exit from the 2019 postseason. Battling in one of, if not the, most difficult sectionals in the Division-2 class is bound to claim some too-soon casualties, and the Crusaders are now one of them.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS

+ RHP Grant Ross, Pewaukee: 7 IP, CG, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 7 K
+ OF Luke Sopha, Pewaukee: 2-for-3, R

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