“Old Man Momentum” got the best of Milton High’s baseball team Tuesday.
Sussex Hamilton scored five runs in its final two at-bats in rallying for a 6-3 win over Milton in a WIAA Division 1 sectional title game.
Leading 3-1 in the fifth inning and seemingly in control behind left-hander Fletcher Terrill, the Red Hawks saw their season come to an end one win short of the program’s first state tournament berth.
Hamilton took advantage of a costly Milton error in the sixth to score three runs and earn a state tournament berth in its first season playing spring baseball. The Chargers previously played in the WIAA’s summer league and last played at state in 1981.
Milton’s successful season ended with a 19-8 record.
“We had chances to score more runs early and weren’t able to cash in,” Milton coach Kris Agnew said. “When you get a guy down, who is struggling a little bit, you have to take advantage and we didn’t.
“Fletcher (Terrill) has been really good for us the last three or four starts, and today was no different. We were one play from getting out of that inning with the game tied.”
Milton got two runs in the first on Caleb Dammen’s RBI groundout and Terrill’s RBI single. The Red Hawks made it 3-0 in the third when Bailey Nickel drove in Luke Hessenauer with a sharp single to left.
Terrill had the Chargers off balance the first four innings. The junior left-hander didn’t allow a hit and just one unearned run.
Hamilton (19-8) tied the game in the fifth on a sacrifice fly and an RBI double from Zach Storbakken. The Chargers then took the lead for good in the sixth on a two-base throwing error with the bases loaded and Cam Mielke’s RBI single.
“We’ve shown all year that we’ll stick in there and battle all seven innings,” Hamilton coach Mike Schramek said. “There were a couple of times early on where I had to tell them to quit feeling sorry for themselves and they responded.
“We do have a tendency to be stubborn and overswing at the plate, and that was the case the first couple of times through the order. Later in the game, we made the right adjustments and had better at-bats.”
Eric Erato went the distance to get the win. The junior right-hander and Northern Illinois recruit settled down after a rocky start. He retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced and set the side down in order in the last three innings.
Despite the loss, Agnew knows the future is bright for the Red Hawks. The team loses two senior starters in Dammen and Nickel but returns a wealth of talent.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to the seniors because they’ve meant so much to this program, but we love the nucleus we have coming back,” Agnew said.
“To go from a nine-win team to a 19-win team says a lot about what we accomplished this season, and hopefully, what’s ahead.”
HAMILTON 6, MILTON 3
Milton 201 000 0—3 8 2
Sussex Hamilton 001 023 x—6 4 1
F. Terrill, Haefner (6) and Nickel; Erato and Laskowski
Leading hitters—Knutson (M) 2x4, Schuetz (M) 2x4. 2B—Knutson, Storbakken (H)
SO—Terrill 3, Erato 4. BB—Terrill 2, Haefner 1, Erato 2
Milton rallies past Parker—Keegan Knutson raced home on a Parker error with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Red Hawks the come-from-behind win.
The two teams combined for 10 errors, including seven by Parker.
Cullen Peterson had three hits for the Vikings, while Casey Stone suffered the loss despite allowing only one earned run and three hits.
Ethan Haefner picked up the win in relief of Evan Jackson.
MILTON 4, PARKER 3
Janesville Parker 020 010 0—3 6 7
Milton 000 021 1—4 3 3
Stone and Madsen; Jackson, Haefner (7) and Nickel
Leading hitters—Peterson (P) 3x3. 2B—Peterson, Dammen (M)
SO—Stone 2, Jackson 2. BB—Stone 2, Jackson 2