Whitefish Bay senior pitcher Jake Rybakowicz had his curveball working July 12 in the WIAA regional semifinal baseball game with area rival Brown Deer, and that was bad news for the Falcons.
Rybakowicz had a career night with 11 strikeouts, eight of them in the first four innings, and just two walks in blanking Brown Deer, 4-0, and advancing the Blue Dukes to a regional final back at home at Cahill Park at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 15, against Shorewood.
The Greyhounds were upset winners over Cedarburg.
'I established the curveball early, and then I was able to get a good mix going with that and the fastball,' Rybakowicz said. 'This was a good way for us to start the tourney off. Do it in a very positive fashion.'
Bay (20-11) beat Shorewood (6-21) twice early in the regular season. Blue Duke coach Jay Wojcinski said Bay will have to get the bats rolling if it wants to advance much further in the WIAA tournament.
'We're just not hitting the ball, and I can't put my finger on it,' he said. 'It's been enough to get by recently, but even if we get more good pitching on Friday (in the regional final), it may not be enough.'
The Blue Dukes had just enough offense to get by Brown Deer (3-23).
The Falcons got a good effort from starting pitcher Shawn Salem (six strikeouts, two hit batters and one walk) but struggled offensively against Rybakowicz, who put down 11 in a row to start the game before issuing a two-out walk in the fourth.
'He's a heck of a pitcher,' said Falcon coach David Lucre. 'They have a nice one-two punch with him (and Liam Kahn), and that'll be tough on their future opponents.'
Bay got the lead in the second on an RBI single from freshman DH Owen Jonas. He scored Andrew James, who tripled to the deepest part of Cahill Park to open the frame.
Wojcinski had the Blue Dukes running in the third to try and force the issue offensively as Chris Siebert was hit by a pitch, stole a base and eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
Salem kept the Falcons in the game in the fourth. The Blue Dukes loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a hit batter, but Salem got a grounder to first to prevent any damage.
Bay scratched out another run in the fifth on two singles and an error on a pick-off attempt. In the sixth, James, who got on through a dropped third strike, eventually came around on an RBI groundout by Charlie Cohen.
Nathan Gonzalez notched the Falcons' first hit in the fifth but was caught stealing to end the inning. That happened to Salem in the sixth, too.
Rybakowicz finally wobbled a little in the seventh, as he gave up a double to Anthony Gonzalez and a single to Emory Weeden to start the inning. The Falcons had runners on the corners, but Rybakowicz found his second wind.
He struck out Jordan Ruhland, got Evan Awe to pop up to second and then the rightfielder Siebert ended the game with a nice running catch of Nathan Gonzalez's fly ball.
Lucre said Rybakowicz was the key to the game, though he added that the Falcons could have helped themselves a little defensively (four errors).
'We were feeling pretty good for awhile, staying with a team of this caliber,' he said. 'We were just talking before the game, the longer we kept it close, the more momentum we'd have (at the end), but we just couldn't give up outs like we did.
'Their kid (Rybakowicz) came through and finished it out.'
Wojcinski was indeed glad to have Rybakowicz on the mound.
'The way he pitched tonight, we just couldn't have asked for anything more,' he said. 'He kept the ball down, and he kept them off-balance. Now we're just hoping that the offense can pick it up.'
Rybakowicz feels it's only a matter of time before the bats start connecting again.
'Our defense and pitching have always been there,' he said, 'but the offense will come around soon.'