Mukwonago's baseball team was playing on the road, but the WIAA summer baseball playoff opener against Wauwatosa West was all about home cooking.
Second baseman Cobie Anderson scooped a grounder and threw home for a monster second out in the seventh inning, and MHS held off the Trojans for a 6-5 victory at Breitlow Field. The win advanced Mukwonago into a noon battle one day later with top-seeded Marquette.
Ninth-seeded Mukwonago never trailed in the game, but was in serious jeopardy in the seventh after Tosa West put runners at second and third with one out and one run already across after a costly infield error.
Sam Bauer hit a well-struck ball to Anderson, who fired home to nab Nick Price on a bang-bang tag play met with disagreement from the Tosa West dugout. It was the second time in the game Price had been retired at the plate, matching a third-inning out on a throw from Ben Graham in center field.
"The slide's going to be faster (on the artificial turf)," Mukwonago catcher Scott Johnson said. "You have to make a play, and it has to be right away. No mistakes, or they can take advantage of that."
One batter later, Mukwonago's Michael Bloom induced a pop-out to strand the tying run at third base.
"Coach has done a great job preparing us all year for situations like those," said Anderson, a second-team All Conference choice in the Classic 8 and the lone player on the squad to net either first or second team. "They haven't always paid off for us throughout the year. But I'm mentally preparing myself, so there's no doubt where I'm going. We're going home."
"You just kind of hold your breath and hope the throw is low enough that you can hold onto it," Mukwonago coach Danny Cochran added of the seventh-inning play. "I had him as out. The assistant coahces said they didn't know for sure. It was a close call."
The earlier out at home was part of a strange 1-2-3 third that featured a leadoff single, a grounder to first and a single that turned into the out at home.
"Right to my chest," Johnson said of Graham's throw from center field. "I couldn't do anything differently. That stops their momentum and gets us going again."
"Ben threw a guy out last week, and that might have been the first real putout from the outfield (this season)," Mukwoango coach Danny Cochran said. "We may have done it with a cut(off), but a straight throw like that, that's rare for us."
The third out in the third was recorded when Jacobi attempted a pickoff at first and caught Bauer stealing, initiating a lengthy rundown that ended with — who else —Johnson tagging the runner out near first base.
Mukwonago held a 3-0 lead after two innings but ceded three Wauwatosa West runs in the bottom of the second thanks in large part to four walks and an error. On three occasions, eighth batter Graham reached base and moved to second on at-bats by Nathan Jendusa (two sacrifices and a groundout), then moved to third base. He scored two runs. Anderson also had an RBI single in the fourth, and Logan Goetz doubled and scored a huge insurance run in the seventh that made it 6-4.
Johnson very nearly homered one batter later but settled for a double to the wall.
"I guess I need to hit the weights more," he said with a smile. "It's like last season. We've had our winning stretches and losing stretches, but we lock it down in the playoffs and are all composed. There's no worry in us. We're just ready to go."
Said Cochran, "The pitching staff has carried us. The defense has improved, and the bats have been slow. So we saw something different today. The walks, we haven't had as much of that. (Jacobi) was phenomenal during the regular season. Funny things happen in the playoffs. Trends are broken, and you just go with it."
Jacobi issued seven walks in 5 2/3 innings. Bloom went the rest of the way, finishing the sixth and opening the seventh with a strikeout before surrendering consecutive singles. Noah Katula grounded to first, but a throw to second was over the mark, bringing one run across and setting up the two runners in scoring position with one out.
"They hit the ball and put themselves in the situation," Anderson said. "We've done a great job picking each other up and having confidence in ourselves. That's really what got us through buckling down in a situation that can be hard for a high-school kid."
Ernie LaSpisa reached base three times for Tosa West in the No. 9 spot, driving in a run.