Allowing big innings, failing to get a clutch hit and making errors on routine plays are among the reasons this season has become a struggle for the Wauwatosa East baseball team.
The Red Raiders are 4-12 overall through Monday of this week and 3-11 in the Greater Metro Conference. After starting the year with a 3-1 record, first-year coach Brian Karas has seen his team go 1-11, including its current five-game losing streak going into Tuesday night's game at West Allis Central (3-10).
In four of their losses, the Red Raiders were outscored 47-10. They lost to Franklin, 10-5, Marquette, 12-2, Menomonee Falls, 11-0, and West Allis Hale, 14-3.
The one good game they played came on Friday at Brookfield East, as pitcher Bryce Kratzer dropped a heartbreaking 4-2 defeat to the Spartans.
Kratzer pitched a complete game, five-hitter, walking two and fanning three. He did this while pitching with a damaged fingernail, which had to be drained earlier in the week to relieve some of the pressure.
"I didn't feel like it affected me this game," he said. "I felt like it affected me last game at Muskego (a 6-1 loss on June 7), my last start. It was two days after I had the injury. (Today) I felt as good as I have been at the beginning of the year. I felt pretty good. I thought I was throwing hard.
"Once we got the pressure released, the nail was bruised and I was icing it a lot. But it felt good today. I didn't feel it limited me."
Karas was also happy with his star pitcher's performance.
"He did all he could do," he said. "He stayed around the plate the entire game. He did a great job."
Trailing 2-0 through three innings, the Spartans got on the board in the fourth.
With one out, Ben Joyce singled, went to second on a wild pitch and third on a balk. Derek Wulff then walked and Colin Trautschold singled to left to drive in Joyce and cut the lead to 2-1.
Wulff went to third and Trautschold to second on an error by the leftfielder. Bobby Russ then scored Wulff on a beautiful suicide squeeze bunt to tie the game at 2-2.
With the score tied in the fourth, the Spartans struck again and took the lead for good with two runs.
Spartans coach Bill Woodring then brought in Ryan Rouse, who slammed the door on the Red Raiders the rest of the way. Despite his team's struggles, Kratzer sees the Red Raiders eventually righting the ship.
"It's been the storyline of our year," he said. "Especially in these close games. Against Oak Creek we had a good game. Against these guys. We're one step away. We have to get the clutch hits with guys on and we'll be right with these teams. I have all the confidence that we can start turning this around in the second half."
His coach has a similar feeling, but Karas admits someone has to step up soon.
"It's encouraging that we keep getting the base runners on when we keep struggling these past few games," he said. "We're looking for that guy to step up and find a gap with runners on base.
"I think a lot of our guys feel that pressure on them. They have to make something happen when it's all about staying loose and letting the game come to you and taking advantage."
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