Playoff preview? Maybe. Certainly the price was right when Pewaukee's Land O'Lakes baseball team hosted Sussex, last year's LOL Western Division regular-season winner on July 27 at Tom Kopecky Field on fan appreciation day. All concession stand items were a buck, and the Muskies had their own good deal.
The Muskies clinched this year's top spot in the circuit, winning over the Cardinals, 3-1. The victory gives Pewaukee a first-round bye in the divisional playoffs scheduled to start Aug. 9, and the Muskies must be beaten twice before getting eliminated from the six-team playoff field.
In front of a 10 minute rain delay, the visiting Cardinals (10-7) scored their lone run of the afternoon in the top of the fourth inning. Nick Schreiber sliced a triple down the right field line. Ryan Weissman singled, scoring Schreiber, once a hurler for the River City Rascals in the Independent Frontier League. Tanner Johnson and Scott Carberry both singled, but Ryan Hernandez out and former Purdue Boilermaker Ben Kaebisch grounded out to first, ending the minor Sussex uprising.
"That was a big inning to get out of," Pewaukee first baseman Mike Grabarczyk said.
The Muskies (14-3) scored twice in the bottom of the seventh inning. Schreiber walked Kurt Sarcia to lead off the inning, and John Sarcia bunted his older brother into scoring position. Schreiber, in the game in relief of Sussex starter Travis Thompson, bobbled the bunt and failed to get either runner out. Nick Wichser followed suit, moving his teammates up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt. Back-to-back passed balls gave Pewaukee the lead.
"It was a tough game, and the passed balls didn't help," Sussex player/manager Cory Gasper said. "You can't make mistakes against a team as good as Pewaukee."
The Muskies scored their first run in the bottom of the second inning off Sussex ace Thompson, who once reached the Triple-A level in the Colorado Rockies organization. Tom Zimmerman singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Greg Harder. Grabarczyk singled to right field, scoring Zimmerman.
Pewaukee starter Adam Dominick, who pitched for the Fort Wayne Tin Cups (Class A Midwest League) in 2011, worked eight innings, giving up eight hits and a walk while striking out three. Lefty Justin Mortensen earned the save for the Muskies.
Seth Kroenke and Weissman each had two hits for the Cardinals. Kurt Sarcia went 3 for 3 for Pewaukee. Zimmerman reached base four times for the Muskies.
"This was a 1-1 game; those were tough balls to bring down that Schreiber threw," Pewaukee manager Mike Wichser said. "We probably should still be playing this one. Our guys did a good job bunting, putting the ball into play. Against a pitcher like Travis, you need to execute, because you're not going to get many chances. Fortunately, the ball bounced our way today."
Pewaukee finishes the regular season with a road game at Monches Recreation Park at 2 p.m. Aug. 2. The Cardinals host Menomonee Falls on Aug. 2 at Tetzlaff/Veterans Field.
"We've just got to win next week and get our heads together going into the playoffs," Gasper added.
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