Come playoff time, there are certain teams the top seeds do not want to see in a one-and-done setting.
Sussex Hamilton entered the playoffs as one of those teams, as the seventh-seeded Chargers upset second-seeded Marquette, 13-8, in the opening round of the Greater Metro Conference tournament before pushing third-seeded Franklin to the brink in an 11-10 loss in the semifinals July 6 at Kapco Park.
"There are no moral victories, we wanted to win the baseball game, but we competed and have nothing to be ashamed about," Hamilton coach Mike Schramek said.
Hamilton starts fast
The Chargers offense came out strong in the conference semifinal, scoring three runs in the first inning on a RBI single by Ryan Hubbell, a sacrifice fly by Cole Roepke and a bases-loaded walk to Jacob Stucky.
But Franklin quickly responded by scoring twice in the bottom of the first and three times in the second to take a 5-3 lead.
Franklin's Kyle Lewis and Aaron Simmons drew walks off Hamilton starter Christopher Barnes to start the bottom of the first and came in to score on ground balls hit by Carson Manning and Nathan Aide.
Barnes walked the first two hitters he faced in the second, as well. Caleb Willert sacrificed Derrick Jones and Ryan Zakzewski to second and third ahead of Lewis, who tripled to right-center field. The relay throw wound up in the stands, allowing Lewis to score to put Franklin up 5-3.
Chargers have big inning
Will Geels plated Stucky with a groundout in the fourth to pull the Chargers to within 5-4.
Sussex Hamilton sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth, scoring six runs to grab a 10-5 advantage. With the bases loaded and nobody out, the Sabers made an error on a ground ball hit by Stucky to allow a run to score and Ryan Apel drew a bases-loaded walk.
After a strikeout, Geels connected on a RBI single, Hubbell walked to force in a run and Roepke capped the inning with a two-run single.
Andy Kornacki replaced Barnes in the second inning and kept the Sabers down until the fifth when Franklin scored four runs to cut Hamilton's lead to 10-9.
All four runs scored with two outs, as Manning drove in a pair with a single, Aide followed with a run-scoring single and Matt Devinger walked to force in a run.
Noah Kristensen induced a fielder's choice to get out of the jam with the lead, but Franklin came right back at Hamilton in the sixth.
Franklin has final answer
Jake Michalski reached on a pinch-hit single and was sacrificed to second by Willert. Lewis then bunted for a base hit and Simmons walked to load the bases. Kristensen got Manning to pop out for the second out, but Aide came through with a two-run single to put Franklin up for good, 11-10.
"You can't ask for anything better than to have this take place where the actual state tournament will be played," Schramek said. "It gives the kids a nice environment to play in and it is a pre-run into the state tournament.
"It gives kids the first experience of what the playoffs are all about, but then you have the security blanket of knowing that if you don't quite get it done you have another shot at it."
Geels, Hubbell and Enneking all had two hits and Roepke drove in three runs.
After downing Marquette and nearly taking down Franklin, Hamilton entered the playoffs with plenty of confidence. The 10th-seeded Chargers were slated to play a regional semifinal at seventh-seeded Brookfield East on July 11.
"It gives us the ability to understand that with the collection of guys we have right now we have the ability to play with anybody," Schramek said. "We've been doing that now for a couple of weeks. As we move forward here, we should be recognized as one of the teams to be reckoned with."
Against Marquette, Hubbell went 4 for 4 with two RBIs. Geels was 3 for 3 with two runs scored. Evan Laskowski drove in three runs.
Kristensen earned the win with four strikeouts in five innings of work.
On July 7 against Brookfield Central, Hamilton fell, 3-2. Geels had two hits.
A day later on July 8, Hamilton won its regular season finale over Plymouth, 6-4. Roepke earned the win with two strikeouts in four innings.