It appeared in the third inning as though Brookfield Central’s comeback in the Greater Metro Conference after an underwhelming 2016 would end in the conference quarterfinals Monday at Trenary Field against Menomonee Falls.
Menomonee Falls had a picturesque set-up. The reigning state champion had the bases loaded after already scoring one run for a quick lead. In each of the two previous innings, the Indians made a spectacular play to wipe out Brookfield Central runners in scoring position, giving the Indians all the momentum.
Menomonee Falls’ return to Kapco Park for the GMC semifinals seemed imminent.
Yet, Falls couldn’t capitalize. Lancers pitcher Michael Hinz forced his opposite number to pop up to right field for an inning-ending flyout, opening the door for the Lancers to advance to the conference semifinals with a 7-2 win over the Indians.
“Michael Hinz always pitches great,” Lancers outfielder Jonathan Osman said. “Hinz always puts us in a spot to win.”
“We’re a confident team when Hinz is on the mound,” Brookfield Central coach Jeff Bigler said. “When he locates, keeps the ball down, spins his slider and gets his two-seam running, he’s tough for any high school hitter to hit.”
Once the door was open, the Lancers did not hesitate.
Brookfield Central left fielder Zach Heckman opened the fourth with an infield single, and Osman followed the single with a momentum-shifting double, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
“It was pretty big,” Osman said. “We needed it to get started because we dropped down, 1-0, to start off.”
Osman’s big hit then sparked a slew of Brookfield Central runs. No one player had a big hit, but four walks, a hit and error later, Brookfield Central went from trailing 1-0 to owning a commanding 6-1 lead.
“When one person starts hitting on our team, then everyone starts hitting,” Osman said. “It gave us momentum for the rest of the game.”
For Menomonee Falls, the Lancers big inning was another missed opportunity; four of Central’s six runs in the inning came with two outs.
“We were one pitch away from getting out of that inning, 2-1,” Menomonee Falls coach Pat Hansen said. “We just let it get worse and worse and snowball to a six-run inning.”
The big inning along with scoreless fourth and fifth innings from Hinz lessened the demand in the last three innings.
“It helps when you bunch them all together in one (inning),” Bigler said. “You don’t need much in any of the other innings.”
Brookfield Central’s win Monday comes after losing to Menomonee Falls at home last week. The team had three hits and no runs in the loss, forcing Bigler to tweak the gameplan.
“We didn’t look good offensively,” Bigler said. “We really tried to hang our hat on being aggressive with the bats and we stung some balls around the park and put some pressure on their defense.”
Central will have another chance to avenge a Greater Metro regular-season loss Thursday as the Lancers take on top-seeded Oak Creek on Thursday in the semifinal.
“We’re a confident group going in,” Bigler. “We know that if we play our game, we can beat anyone.”
Hinz’s pitch count hit the 100-pitch maximum, so he will not be available for Thursday. Adam Baade, who has been used often as a closer, will get the nod against the Knights.
“I have just as much confidence in him as anyone else,” Osman said. “So I’m excited.”