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Gaberino, Todarello help Arrowhead top Nicolet

July 10, 2012

When the WIAA summer high school baseball tournament begins, the stakes are high for every school. Win your first game and advance to the regional finals, keeping dreams of playing in the state tournament alive.

Lose that first game, as Arrowhead has discovered the past two seasons, and the season ends with a thud.

Fortunately for Arrowhead, there were no thuds Tuesday night.

Hosting 13th seeded Nicolet, the No. 4 seeded Warhawks scored once in the bottom of the second inning and twice in the sixth as they defeated the host Knights in the regional opener, 3-1. Nicolet finished the season with a 14-17 record.

The Warhawks advanced out of the first round for the first time in three years. After winning the state title in 2009, Arrowhead lost in the opening round the last two summers.

It’s nice to keep the season going,” said third-year AHS coach Vince Mancuso. “We had three good days of practices and that carried over into the game tonight. We’ve played our best baseball of the year the last two weeks. Hopefully we can keep this thing going awhile.”

Arrowhead (21-9) will host fifth-seeded Homestead at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Homestead defeated Port Washington Tuesday night to advance to the regional final. The winner on Friday will play in the Cedarburg sectional on Monday at 10:30 a.m.

The Warhawks picked a great time to turn in one of their best overall performances of the season. They got a solid pitching performance from senior right-hander Matt Gaberino, flawless defense all night and just enough hitting and offense to score the wire-to-wire victory.

Gabernio allowed just seven hits and just a solo run, that coming in the top of the seventh. He struck out three and walked just two.

 “It was all about our defense tonight," said Gaberino. "Those are the guys that made it happen. They did it tonight. My job was to go out and throw strikes and that’s what I did. I owe it all to the defense.”

The defense finished 9 for 9 fielding ground balls and turned a third-inning double play when left fielder Eric Cottrell caught a line drive and fired a perfect strike to second baseman Mitch Dubnicka, who caught the wandering Nicolet runner too far off the base.

After that double play, Gaberino had his best run of the game, retiring 9 of the next 10 batters he faced.

After holding on to a precarious 1-0 lead, thanks to a solo unearned run in the second inning, Arrowhead got two huge insurance runs in the sixth.

Dubnicka started that rally by drawing a walk and moved to second when Kyle Eskoff sacrificed him to second. When Jackson Abresch flew out to center, Dubnicka moved to third with two outs.

With one strike, junior shortstop Dom Todarello laid down a beautiful bunt single down the third base line, scoring Dubnicka on the play. Todarello then moved to third when freshman catcher Mikey Bauer singled to right. Bauer advanced to second on the throw to third.

With one ball on Gaberino and Nicolet pitcher Hunter Crass working out of the windup, Todarello shocked Crass by stealing home, easily beating the pitch to catcher CJ Putterman.

“That’s what Dom does for our team,” Mancuso said. “He bats leadoff for that reason and he knows what he’s doing. We talked about his bunt and then we talked about stealing home. It’s nice to have a guy like Dom on your team.”

Nicolet nicked Gaberino for its lone run in the seventh, thanks to a pair of hits and a wild pitch.

“We’ll take this one tonight and hope for another one on Friday,” Mancuso said. “The guys are playing good baseball right now.”

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