There was a moment in the top of the seventh where it appeared as if Wauwatosa East was going to have a chance to continue its Cinderella run through the WIAA summer baseball playoffs.
But the clock suddenly struck midnight on the Red Raiders.
With a baserunning mistake and a line-drive double play, Wauwatosa East's late rally quickly fizzled out in a 5-2 loss to top-seeded Marquette in a sectional semifinal July 17 at Brookfield Central High School.
Tosa East, which reached this stage of the postseason with upsets of Pewaukee and Kettle Moraine, finished with an 8-25 record.
"There's nothing you can do about that line drive," Tosa East coach Pete Schwichtenberg said. "It is baseball. You get a shot right at somebody (in a big moment)."
The Red Raiders laid out two blueprints for most of their games this season. The regular-season plan saw the pitching staff keep them in games as the offense mounted a late comeback, which often times fell short.
In its two postseason wins, Tosa East followed a different plan, scoring early to allow the pitching staff to operate with a lead.
Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, the ways of the regular season returned against Marquette.
Left-hander Aaron Plaisted worked through early command issues to keep Tosa East in the game.But the same Red Raiders that pounded out 17 hits against Kettle Moraine was held hitless through five innings by Marquette starter Zach Nogalski.
"The last five, six, seven starts, he's been outstanding," Schwichtenberg said of Plaisted. "He's kept us in every ballgame. We have a lot of confidence in him. He did his job."
A walk, a fielder's choice and a single allowed the Hilltoppers to load the bases with nobody out in the top of the first inning.
Plaisted limited the damage to just one run, but a two-out RBI double by Nogalski increased Marquette's lead to 2-0 in the second.
The senior allowed just a bunt single over the next two innings before walking the first two batters he faced to start the fifth.
An error by shortstop Tim Fuerst on a potential double-play ball loaded the bases, and Zach Schmidt helped Marquette capitalize with a two-run single to center. A walk reloaded the bases for Rob Gueldner, who hit a comebacker to Plaisted.
Plaisted threw to Ricky Serrano for the force at the plate, but Serrano's throw to first base was high, allowing another run to score.
Jeff Mason came on to record the final two outs of the inning without further damage, but Marquette led, 5-0.
Plaisted singled to start the sixth, which was the first hit of the day for the Red Raiders. A throwing error by Marquette allowed Plaisted to come around and score to pull Tosa East within 5-1.
Evan Bertotto and Chris Fuerst drew walks, and Blake Kratzer singled off Hilltoppers reliever Austin Trowbridge to load the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh.
Marquette shortstop Peter Ahn then committed an error on a ground ball hit by Sam Rutkiewicz. Bertotto scored, and it appeared as if the Red Raiders were going to have the bases loaded with nobody out ,down 5-2, but Chris Fuerst overran third base and ran into Schwichtenberg in the process.
Ahn corraled the ball and threw to third base for the easy out.
One pitch later, Plaisted drilled a shot right at second baseman Brandon Hafemann, who tossed to Ahn at short to easily double off Kratzer and end the game.
The Red Raiders may not have recorded a hit until the sixth, but they had two runners on in the first and put the leadoff runner on in the fourth.
Bertotto, Chris Fuerst and Kratzer drew two-out walks with Tosa East trailing 2-0 in the fifth, but a shot by Rutkiewicz was right at left fielder Hank Lamers.
"We've had so many times where we've had guys on all year and we rope baseballs at people," Schwichtenberg said. "We weren't able to score there, but the heart they've shown is what I'm really proud of."
Schwichtenberg is hoping the run to the sectional semifinal will provide offseason momentum for Tosa East, a program that entered this season looking to build on a 16-16 mark from 2016.
"Starting next year, we need to go right away," Schwichtenberg said. "We talk about all year that we can get to sectionals and go further than that. Now they know what it is. They've experienced it. We have a lot of young guys that have the experience of this year."