It can be a long, hot, dusty summer for baseball teams that just can't find the win column often enough.
But sometimes, something happens, and those squads find a bounce in their step.
That's exactly what happened to Nicolet last week when the Knights, in the last week of the regular season, pulled out back-to-back one-run wins over Port Washington (8-7) on July 5 and then against Mukwonago (6-5) on July 7.
Nicolet closed the regular season on July 8 with a 9-6 North Shore loss to Kewaskum, but Knight coach Jason Grodsky still had reason for encouragement.
'Despite the scores, there wasn't a whole lot of drama,' he said. 'The key was, that we played pretty good defense last week. There weren't a whole lot of mistakes.'
Nicolet closed its regular season at 8-21. Coincidentally, they took on Kewaskum again in a WIAA regional semifinal game on Tuesday, July 12. If they won that game, they would visit defending state champion and sectional second seed Menomonee Falls in a regional final at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 15, at Trenary Field.
If they won the regional final, they would advance to sectional play at Germantown on Monday, July 18. The Knights would play the 1:30 p.m. semifinal with the final slated for 4:30 p.m.
Grodsky remains optimistic.
'It was frustrating losing a lot of close games like that,' he said, but we stayed together, and our pitching improved and our defense improved. We got wins when we could in (North Shore) conference, and that played out just about as it should have.'
Kewaskum pounded out 14 hits in the July 8 decision as Elan Berman took the loss for the Knights. Daniel Schiff had a fine day at the plate with three hits and three runs scored.
In the win over Mukwonago, the Knights scored four times in the third to take a 5-2 lead and then held on despite four errors. In the seventh, Mukwonago scored a run and had runners on first and third with two out before a line-out to short finally ended the game.
Eli Winter got the win, throwing four innings with six walks and three strikeouts as Aaron Trattner helped out with three innings with three strikeouts and two walks.
Trattner knocked in three runs, while Jaren Yoder and Brayden Elliott had two hits apiece.
The nine-inning Port Washington game was quite a bit more dramatic. A three-run first and three-run fifth gave them a 6-2 lead, but then the Pirates rallied for four tallies in the seventh to tie the score. Three errors hurt the Knights in the inning.
Port took the lead in the the top of the eighth, but in the bottom of the frame, Schiff beat out an infield single to tie the score. The Knights won the game in the bottom of the ninth after Adam Plotkin got on through an error, stole second and then scored junior Ben Babisch's single.
Babisch struggled out of the gate this season at 2-for-15, Grodsky said, but has been 15-for-35 since then.
'He's one of the key pieces in the middle of our lineup,' Grodsky said.
Babisch had three hits and two RBIs in the game, as did Elliott, while Schiff had two hits and two RBIs.
Grodsky used four pitchers in the game with Trattner getting the win. Plotkin also pitched five-plus strong innings.
'Anytime you can win a couple of games in a row, that's a good thing,' Grodsky said. 'The kids are continuing to work hard and play as a team. That's given us a chance to do some good things.'