GRAND CHUTE - Neenah entered Tuesday's Division 1 baseball state quarterfinal easily playing its best baseball of the season.
The Rockets entered the state tournament with a four-game winning streak. They hadn't won more than
one a row all regular season.
In their previous four postseason games, the Rockets had committed just two errors.
And after knocking off Fox Valley Association champion Kimberly, 1-0, in a sectional final, things couldn't have been going better, considering Kimberly would've been among the favorites to win a state title.
All that momentum came to a halt against Stoughton at Fox Cities Stadium. Tied 3-all in the bottom of the
seventh inning, Stoughton perfectly executed a suicide squeeze to win 4-3, ending Neenah's memorable
"I'm extremely proud of my guys," Neenah coach Jim Piepenbrink said. "Midway through the year we were not very good. We were an 11th seed, so we had to battle through a three seed (Appleton North) and a one seed (Kimberly). We had to play good baseball and we just didn't have a very good day today."
Playing like a gold-glove defense this postseason, Neenah committed four errors, which led to three unearned runs. Neenah committed two in the bottom of the seventh and Piepenbrink wasn't sure why his team didn't make the play, but thought the moment might've been the reason.
"Any time you have that much pressure, it makes routine plays that more difficult," Piepenbrink said. "Unfortunately, we didn't make the plays and it cost us. They made contact and they made us make plays. Whoever made plays I thought was going to come out on top. They did and we didn't."
Neenah's Brett Grafmeier pitched a complete game, allowing seven hits, while striking out six and
walking three. At times he labored, but Piepenbrink stuck with him and was pleased with his outing.
"We considered (pulling him) in the last two innings," Piepenbrink said. "He had a gutsy performance.
They really weren't hitting him too hard. A lot of their hits found places. He pitched one heck of a game."
Lost in the final play of the game was the fact Stoughton's runners on first and second base didn't touch second and third, respectively, before celebrating the win on the field with the team. With one out, if Neenah
had noticed the runners didn't advance it could've turned a double play and the run would not have counted.
Nonetheless, after the run scored Neenah got in line to shake hands, ending the game.
"It's tough that it's over," Neenah first baseman Sam Erickson said. "Being an 11th seed, battling through the
tournament, being an underdog ... just making state, it might take a while for it to set in what we did.
"It was pretty special, I guess."
- Notes: Spencer Miller had two of Neenah's five hits. ... Neenah ends the season 12-17. ... Neenah left two runners on base, Stoughton nine.
- Game ball: Miller, who had two hits and a walk.
- Numbers game: 3 Unearned runs allowed by Neenah off four errrors.
For complete box, click this link: http://www.wiaawi.org/Portals/0/PDF/Results/Baseball_Spring/2013/d1game2.htm
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