Nicolet Baseball Rides Rollercoaster to No. 1 Seed
Team's growing pains have made it inconsistent, but WIAA summer baseball tournament is wide open.
It’s summer in Milwaukee and baseball is in full swing.
While the Brewers are the talk of the town, they’re not the only ones having a successful season on the base paths this year.
The Nicolet baseball team starts its playoff run on Tuesday as the No. 1 seed in its region in the WIAA summer baseball tournament. The Knights host Port Washington at 5:30 p.m. at Stormonth Field.
“We’re obviously happy with the No. 1 seed,” senior first baseman D.J. Peltz said. “Yeah, we’ve been scuffling a little bit lately but we came out and had a couple good practices, trying especially to build the chemistry together at the end of the year and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
“I think we’re going in (the playoffs) with a little bit of confidence.”
The Knights have had an up-and-down season. After starting the year 6-0, they dropped four of their next seven.
The team rebounded by winning their next four before another short losing streak where the team just didn’t look up to form.
“We haven’t played well the last few games but we seem to be like a rollercoaster,” coach Richard Sykes said. “We’re riding the wave and then we’re dropping down; we’re up and down.
“Early in the season we were 6-0 and we committed one error in six games. We beat (West Bend) West here 4-0 and (pitcher Joel) Sharon struck out 15 kids and they had two hits. We played them a couple weeks ago, Sharon can’t find the plate, we have four or five errors and we lost 8-2.”
Sykes suspects part of the reason for the Jekyll-and-Hyde-like appearances is youth. Last year, Nicolet boasted a roster of four all-conference members. All four, as well as seven more contributors to last year’s squad, graduated. That meant Sykes had just a handful of guys who had experience at the varsity level coming into this season.
Thankfully for Knights fans, two of those individuals were Sharon and Peltz. The two have combined for seven home runs and more than 30 of the team’s 57 RBI, while Sharon, the team’s ace, has struck out 46 batters in just more than 43 innings pitched with a 5-2 overall record.
“Last year, yeah, I had the statistics but I also had a lot of guys around me to help out,” Peltz said. “I’d see more fast balls, especially when you’ve got guys like (former players Brian) Huntzinger and (Sam) Kohnke on either side of you, you’re going to see the pitches.
“This year it’s been an adjustment seeing more of the off speed and (other teams) pitching around you, but it’s been good. Joel (Sharon) and I are the three and four hitters and it’s been a tougher adjustment but I think as the season’s gone on we’ve gotten better with our roles.”
As the Knights wrap up their season, they obviously hope to finish on a strong note, especially considering there is no dominant team in the area this year.
Citing last year’s state-champion Franklin squad, Sykes said it’s just a matter of who’s playing well at the end of the year, noting that it would be a little ironic if this year’s group could go all the way.
“We seem to get to the sectional final every year but for the last few years we haven’t closed the deal for whatever reason,” Sykes said. “So, even through we’re (17-9), it would be Murphy’s Law that would get us there. We couldn’t do it with a 28-4 team or a 32-1 team, but we could do it with a 17-10 team or whatever we finish up.”