The story of the entire 2013 baseball season for West Allis Central was perfectly illustrated in the Bulldogs' WIAA regional loss to Greendale on Tuesday evening.
Central received brilliant pitching from ace Michael Manlick, who worked eight innings of shutout ball, allowing just three hits while striking out six.
The defense was solid, with second baseman Kevin Gerovac and outfielders Dylan Diebitz and Josh Neary all making fine plays and shortstop David Mlachnik and third baseman Jason Alvarez among those giving consistent efforts.
The only thing missing was clutch hitting, as the Bulldogs could not take advantage of two bases-loaded situations.
The result was a frustrating 1-0 defeat in 10 innings and an early end to the Bulldogs' season.
All year long, Central received solid pitching and defense but just couldn't score enough runs.
"We just didn't get the hitting," first-year head coach Dean Mlachnik said. "Our kids played so hard all year. This just didn't seem fair. We lost a bunch of one-run games like this all year."
The Bulldogs finished 7-24, with nine losses coming by one or two runs.
Manlick shut out the Panthers for eight innings, earning the respect of Greendale head coach Brian Johnsen.
"Manlick did just a phenomenal job," Johnsen said. "I can't give him enough credit for hitting his locations and everything. He is truly a pitcher."
The junior ended up throwing a career-high 125 pitches before leaving the game after the eighth inning.
"He wanted to go longer, which says something about him, but we were concerned about his future," Mlachnik said. "His college future is more important than one ballgame."
Josh Kopplin pitched a scoreless ninth but ran into trouble in the 10th. Greendale's Ben Moore singled to centerfield and took second on a bunt.
Diebitz relieved and hit Ty Ramirez with a pitch, then both runners advanced on a balk.
With two outs, Mitchell Brees singled to center to score Moore with the winning run.
The Central pitchers, especially Manlick, were helped by sterling defense throughout the game.
"Mlachnik at shortstop and Alvarez at third made some great plays," coach Mlachnik said. "Gerovac made a phenomenal play on a wind-blown pop-up and both Diebitz and Neary made diving catches in the outfield."
The Bulldogs, though, could not take advantage of two bases-loaded opportunities. In the first, Manlick, Brandon Burdick and Alvarez all walked to fill the bases with one out, but Central did not score.
In the sixth, Neary hit an infield single, Manlick drew a walk and Burdick laid down a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. After a strikeout, Neary was out at the plate on an attempted squeeze play, and the inning ended on another strikeout.
For Greendale, Zack Henderson worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out 10, and Ramirez finished, giving up no hits and fanning five.
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