Zak Karrels stepped to the plate looking for a fastball.
The Hartland Arrowhead senior designated hitter not only got one, he got all of one.
Karrels led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a no-doubt home run to left field Tuesday night, stunningly putting an end to a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal baseball game, and to Janesville Craig’s season.
Karrels’ blast was his first of the year and delivered the Warhawks a 2-1 victory and a spot in Thursday night’s state championship against Waunakee.
Craig, which had shut out Milwaukee King earlier in the day in the quarterfinals, finished with a 23-6 record.
“I was looking for a fastball in, like a first- or second-pitch fastball,” said Karrels, who went 2-for-3 and had a double earlier in the game. “He really didn’t give me what I wanted until that last at-bat, so that felt really good.
“I was just thinking of trying to get on base to help my team … but this worked out even better.”
The home run was a shocking finale to what had otherwise been a pitching duel.
Craig junior Mitchell Woelfle had given up just five hits and a fluky third-inning run. He had sat down 10 of the previous 11 batters he faced before the game-ending drive.
“They were tough tonight,” Craig coach Victor Herbst said of Arrowhead. “We didn’t get a lot of hits. You can’t fault Mitchell. He just pitched lights-out tonight. One swing gets us.”
“He had done a really good job,” Karrels said of Woelfle. “And we also had really good pitchers, as well. … It was a really good battle between two really good teams.”
The Cougars offense mustered just two hits and an unearned run against Arrowhead pitchers David Zeutzius and Derek Polczynski.
Polczynski threw three perfect innings of relief to keep Craig at bay. He struck out four of the nine batters he faced.
“To me, that was the state championship right there tonight,” Herbst said. “He (Polczynski) did a nice job. He pitched backwards and had a nice breaking ball. He threw it for a strike, which makes you real effective.
“But I just can’t commend my kids enough with how hard they worked.”
The two teams traded a run apiece in the first three innings.
Craig grabbed the lead in the first thanks to an Arrowhead error. Dan Blomgren reached on a throwing blunder to open the game, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when senior shortstop Noah Berghammer drilled a two-out double to the left-field gap.
The Cougars had traffic on the bases the next two innings but couldn’t add to the lead.
The Warriors tied it up in the bottom of the third on a couple of pop-up hits. Luke Dubnicka dropped a Texas-league single into shallow center field with one out and scored all the way from first when Jeff Holtz’s towering fly ball to left field dropped between Craig fielders.
Outside of that, offense was hard to come by, until the Warhawks got all the rest of the firepower they needed with Karrels’ first home run of the season.
“It was perfect timing,” Karrels said.
Craig 8, King 0—Junior Micah Overley allowed just two hits and struck out five in six innings as the Cougars earned the shutout of Milwaukee King in a state quarterfinal earlier Tuesday.
Craig scored in five of the seven innings, and every batter in the starting lineup had at least one hit.
“It was a fun night to pitch, and once we got those runs early, I was able to relax and just go out there and pitch,” said Overley, who was staked to a 2-0 lead by the time he pitched the second inning. “I struggled with my curveball a little bit heading up to the playoffs, but I was able to throw it for strikes today.”
Junior third baseman Dan Blomgren had three of Craig’s 13 hits, including an inside-the-park home run in the fifth inning. Senior shortstop Noah Berghammer had a pair of doubles, and JJ Brennan added two hits and scored twice.
CRAIG 8, KING 0
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Blomgren, 3b, 4-2-3-2; Campbell, c, 4-0-1-0; Malmanger, 1b, 3-1-1-1; Berghammer, ss, 4-1-2-0; Kussmaul, rf, 4-0-1-1; Brennan, cf, 3-2-2-0; Schmaling, dh, 2-2-1-2; Overley, p, 0-0-0-0; Faust, p, 0-0-0-0; Hesseling, 2b, 3-0-1-1; March, lf, 3-0-1-1. Totals: 30-8-13-8.
King (ab-r-h-rbi)—N. Pinet, ss, 2-0-0-0; Jackson, 2b, 2-0-0-0; Paea, ph, 1-0-0-0; LeFlore, cf, 3-0-0-0; T. Pinet, c-p, 3-0-2-0; Nelson, rf, 2-0-0-0; Boettcher, ph, 1-0-0-0; Akpan, 1b-c, 3-0-0-0; Myer, p-1b, 3-0-0-0; Sullivan, 3b, 2-0-0-0; Winegarden, lf, 1-0-1-0. Totals: 23-0-3-0.
Janesville Craig 022 112 0—8
Milwaukee King 000 000 0—0
E—Craig 1, King 1. LOB—Craig 5, King 4. DP—King 1. 2B—Berghammer 2, Schmaling, T. Pinet. HR—Blomgren. SF—Schmaling. SB—Blomgren 2, Malmanger 2, Hesseling.
Craig IP H R ER BB SO
Overley (W) 6 2 0 0 2 5
Faust 1 1 0 0 0 2
King IP H R ER BB SO
Myer (L) 5 11 8 7 2 2
T. Pinet 2 2 0 0 1 4
ARROWHEAD 2, CRAIG 1
Craig (ab-r-h-rbi)—Blomgren, 3b, 3-1-0-0; Campbell, c, 4-0-0-0; Malmanger, 1b, 3-0-1-0; Berghammer, ss, 3-0-1-1; Kussmaul, rf, 1-0-0-0; Brennan, cf, 3-0-0-0; Schmaling, dh, 3-0-0-0; Hesseling, 2b, 3-0-0-0; March, lf, 2-0-0-0; Woelfle, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 25-1-2-1.
Arrowhead (ab-r-h-rbi)—Pulvermacher, lf, 3-0-1-0; Dubnicka, 3b, 3-1-1-0; Wohlfiel, cf, 2-0-0-0; Holtz, c, 3-0-2-1; Boray, cr, 0-0-0-0; Toussaint, ss, 2-0-0-0; Tanke, rf, 3-0-0-0; Karrels, dh, 3-1-2-1; Bartolone, 2b, 2-0-0-0; Johnson, 1b, 2-0-0-0; Zeutzius, p, 0-0-0-0; Polczynski, p, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 23-2-6-2.
Janesville Craig 100 000 0—1
Hartland Arrowhead 001 000 1—2
E—Arrowhead 2. LOB—Craig 7, Arrowhead 5. 2B—Berghammer, Pulvermacher, Karrels, Holtz. HR—Karrels.
Craig IP H R ER BB SO
Woelfle (L) 6 6 2 2 1 5
Arrowhead IP H R ER BB SO
Zeutzius 4 2 1 0 4 4
Polczynski (W) 3 0 0 0 0 4