Panthers Claim Third Seed On Kraft's Walk-Off Winner
May 20, 2011
MILWAUKEE - Senior Cole Kraft drove in the winning run in the 10th inning to send the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball team to a 6-5 walk-off victory over Valparaiso University in game one of a doubleheader Friday afternoon at Henry Aaron Field.
With the victory in the opener, the Panthers (27-26-1, 15-10-1 Horizon League) clinched the third seed in the upcoming Horizon League Tournament. The Crusaders (22-30, 14-10 Horizon League) then closed out the day with the doubleheader split after earning the victory in game two.
Kraft came up with the big two-out hit in the 10th to send the Panthers to the victory, but it was another pair of seniors who came through on "Senior Day" in the ninth to send the game into extra innings. Sam Sivilotti continued his hot hitting on the weekend, doubling on a two-out, two-strike pitch to plate Doug Dekoning with the tying run and give UWM the opportunity.
"Those are some great kids, we are certainly going to miss those guys," Milwaukee head coach Scott Doffek said. "Last year we lost a great group of seniors after the NCAA regional. At the time I pulled the juniors aside and told them if they had any aspirations of getting back there, they would have to really step and improve the way last year's seniors did. And, they have done it. They have been really good leaders on and off the field and today was just an example of it."
Down by a run on a pair of occasions earlier in the game, the Panthers tacked on single tallies in each of the fifth through seventh innings to take a 4-3 lead into the ninth. But, the Crusaders never gave up and plated a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to take a 5-4 lead, scoring once on Robbie Robinson's double to tie it and again on Andrew Bain's two-out single to take the lead.
With two outs and nobody on in the ninth, UWM was down to its last strike on a pair of occasions. Dekoning coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch before Sivilotti laced a 2-2 pitch to the gap in left center to plate the tying run and set the table for Kraft in the 10th.
Sophomore Eric Semmelhack started and worked an effective 7.0 innings. He allowed three runs - but just one was earned - striking out a career-best eight batters while walking just one.
"He was fantastic," Doffek said. "He had sharp stuff and that was probably the best he has been in a while. For some reason, we cannot get that guy a `W', but, what a great job of keeping us in the game."
Down, 3-1, in the fifth, UWM got back a run on freshman Tell Taylor's two-out RBI-single. The Panthers then tied the game in the sixth on a Valpo error but left the bases loaded. The offense kept up the pressure, taking the lead in the seventh on a sac fly off the bat of freshman Sam Koenig that scored Dekoning.
Milwaukee outhit Valparaiso, 12-to-8, in the opener, with Sivilotti (4-for-5, 2 RBI) tying his career-high with four hits. Taylor finished 2-for-5 and sophomore Drew Pearson was 2-for-4. Junior Greg Blohowiak (2-1) picked up the win with 1.1 innings of shutout baseball, giving up just one hit.
In the nightcap, the Crusaders struck quickly and often, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after one inning in building the cushion to 7-0 before UWM would break up the shutout on Kraft's home run off the right field foul pole in the sixth. Valpo would go on to win the second game, 14-2.
"Whether you are one, two or three, you will have to play some good baseball next week no matter what seed you are," Doffek said. "We wanted to finish as high as we could and when we woke up today, second place was still an opportunity. I think when we found out today that we couldn't get second, it was a bit of an emotional letdown. But, you have to give credit to Valpo - they really swung the bats well."
Kraft was 3-for-4 to lead UWM's offense, with Sivilotti (2-for-4, RBI) and Pearson (2-for-4) also adding multi-hit efforts. Robinson (3-for-4, 3 RBI, on base 6 times) paced four Valpo batters with three-hit efforts. Jon Gulbranson (6-7) picked up the victory, allowing no runs in 5.0 innings of work.
The Horizon League Tournament is up next and will begin on Wednesday at Nischwitz Stadium in Dayton, Ohio. As the No. 3 seed, the Panthers will take on sixth-seeded Youngstown State University in their opener, scheduled for 3 p.m. EST that day.