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West Allis Nighthawks find their offense, claim series championship

West Allis wins Lakes playoff series

Ryan Welch of West Allis prepares to take a cut at a pitch during the second of the Nighthawks’ two Land O’ Lakes Eastern Division playoff games against the visiting Racine Kiwanis at Zirkel Field on Aug. 10. The Nighthawks swept Racine to advance to the division championship series against New Berlin.

Ryan Welch of West Allis prepares to take a cut at a pitch during the second of the Nighthawks’ two Land O’ Lakes Eastern Division playoff games against the visiting Racine Kiwanis at Zirkel Field on Aug. 10. The Nighthawks swept Racine to advance to the division championship series against New Berlin. Photo By Dave Haberkorn

Aug. 11, 2014

The offense returned for the West Allis Nighthawks at just the right time.

The Nighthawks could not get their high-powered attack going in the first game of their best-of-three set with the Racine Kiwanis on Aug. 6, dropping a 6-3 decision in Land O' Lakes Eastern Division playoff action.

That put them into a must-win situation on Aug. 10 at Zirkel Field, as they had to sweep Racine to stay alive for the Eastern tournament championship.

West Allis responded in a big way in earning that sweep.

The offense showed some signs of life in a 7-3 victory in the opener, which tied the series at one game apiece.

The Nighthawks then exploded in the nightcap, racking up 16 hits, including 15 in a two-inning span, as they routed the Kiwanis 16-5 in seven innings. They also turned a triple play in that contest.

New Berlin is next

That victory gave them the series two games to one and sent them to the championship series against regular-season champion New Berlin.

The title series began Wednesday, Aug. 13, at West Allis and will conclude Sunday, Aug. 17, at Wayne Hamilton Field in New Berlin. The second game of the series will be played at noon, and if a third contest is necessary, it will take place at 2:30 p.m. at the same site.

The winner goes to the Grand Championship playoffs, which start Saturday, Aug. 23.

"(We got things going), especially after as bad as we were Wednesday night (Aug. 6)," said manager Andy Schwall. "We just didn't get a whole lot going, other than a couple big hits. We knew we were going to have to pick the offense up. It was nice to get the offense going again."

Scott Sievert, who drove in five runs in the doubleheader, said the Nighthawks jump-started their offense by keeping things simple.

"Free and easy," Sievert said. "We put good swings on it, and away we go."

Trailed early

West Allis actually fell behind in the top of the first inning in the deciding contest as the Kiwanis loaded the bases on two walks and an error and cashed in two runs.

The Nighthawks answered with one in their half of the first as Joe Kooping walked and came home on a fielder's choice from Schwall.

The score stayed 2-1 until the bottom of the third inning. Ryan Welch and Brian Stoecklein both singled, and Welch tallied on Schwall's sacrifice fly.

The Nighthawks then came up with five straight hits, all with two outs. Sievert, Jason Brooks and Nick Blanchet all singled, with Brooks and Blanchet bringing in runs.

Luke Sommerfeld, the Brookfield Central High School standout who joined the Nighthawks just that day, then singled in two runs, and John Stetzenbach singled to produce one more. Suddenly, West Allis was up 7-2.

The Nighthawks then collected nine runs on eight hits in the fourth inning.

Singles by Welch, Stoecklein and Schwall loaded the bases with no outs, and Sievert cleared them with a booming double to centerfield.

Brooks walked and Blanchet, Sommerfeld and Stetzenbach all singled home runs as West Allis turned the game into a rout.

"(Hitting) is contagious, like they say," Sievert said.

Sievert and Sommerfeld both drove in three runs, while Blanchet, Schwall and Stetzenbach all brought in two runs. Sommerfeld and Welch each collected three hits on the game.

Sommerfeld pitches well

Sommerfeld, who helped Brookfield Central to this season's WIAA state championship, also worked the entire game on the mound.

"Luke was new; we just signed him a couple of days ago," Schwall said. "This is the first time he played with us. He did a great job today. He really settled down after the first couple of innings and just started pounding the strike zone."

Sommerfeld allowed three hits while striking out three. He walked six, but all of those came in the first four innings.

He was helped by his defense, as West Allis turned double plays in the first and third innings and a triple play in the second.

Racine had runners on first and second when Sommerfeld snared a liner back to him and threw to shortstop Stetzenbach at second. Stetzenbach then threw to first baseman Blanchet, who caught the other runner in a rundown for the third out.

"I think that's the first one we've turned in team history," Schwall said.

West Allis also fell behind 1-0 in the fourth inning of the earlier game on Aug. 10 but answered with four runs in its half of the fourth.

Welch, Stoecklein and Sievert all singled to load the bases; then Brooks brought in one run on a fielder's choice, and Blanchet singled for another.

Sommerfeld then belted a pitch into the right-centerfield gap for a triple to plate two more runs and make it 4-1.

Sievert singled in two runs in the fifth, and Stetzenbach singled for another in the eighth to close out the West Allis scoring.

Tomter gets victory

Sievert finished with three hits and two RBIs, and Sommerfeld also drove in two runs. Blanchet, Stoecklein and Stetzenbach all tallied two hits.

Alex Tomter picked up the victory, allowing nine hits in his complete game with five strikeouts and just one walk.

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