Just like Whitefish Bay baseball coach Jay Wojcinski would like to see his talented Blue Dukes become a little more consistent in time for a strong stretch run, so does one other.
Moments after the Blue Dukes had completed their postgame huddle following their 9-2 victory over area rival and host Nicolet on June 28, former Marquette University basketball player and Blue Duke backer Joe Nethen, who was sitting in a lawn chair near the leftfield fence at Stormonth Field, grabbed a bullhorn that he had handy and shouted his version of encouragement to the team: 'Now try winning all the games like this instead of giving us a heart attack.'
The unusual shoutout drew a big laugh from the Blue Dukes and a smile from Wojcinski, who was pleased to see his team bounce back from a disappointing 6-1 loss to Germantown on June 27.
'Joe's always around,' Wojcinski said, laughing.
Maybe Nethen's particular brand of encouragement is just the kind of impetus Bay needs as the Blue Dukes improved to 9-7 in North Shore play and 16-8 overall.
'We hadn't been playing particularly well, and we needed a good one,' Wojcinski said. 'We needed a good one to put last night out of our heads and start fresh.'
But for Knight coach Jason Grodsky, it was just another frustrating night in a long series of them as Nicolet dropped its seventh in a row to fall to 2-13 in league play and 5-18 overall.
'We just need to start playing full games,' he said. 'We do a good job of playing offense, defense and pitching at times, but we just don't do it for seven innings.'
Wojcinski knows how that up-and-down way of playing can wear on a team. That's why he was so pleased to see senior first baseman Andrew James pound a two-run homer to the tree tops in right-center in the first inning for a 2-0 lead.
Nicolet got back into the game with an RBI double from junior Brayden Elliott in the bottom of the same frame.
Bay punched the lead up to 3-1 in the third on an RBI double from Carson Kimple.
Junior Ben Babisch gave Nicolet more hope in the fourth when he crushed a Ryan Hummer offering over the left-centerfield fence for a solo home run as the deficit dropped to 3-2.
But that would be as close as the Knights would get, as Hummer, pressed into his first start of the season because of a busy five-game schedule for the Blue Dukes this week, got tough when he needed to.
Nicolet got the tying run to second in the fourth following Babisch's home run, but Hummer earned a strikeout looking to end the threat. Nicolet got a single runner on in each of the three remaining innings but could not advance him past first.
Wojcinski was impressed with Hummer, who scattered eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
'We were in a bind with the schedule,' Wojcinski said. 'So for him to come out and do a great job in his first start of the season was very impressive.'
Bay got Hummer some badly needed insurance in the fifth with three runs, including a two-RBI single from catcher Teddy Weber. The Blue Dukes added one more tally in the sixth and two in the seventh.
Adam Plotkin pitched gamely for Nicolet, going five-plus innings with five walks and two strikeouts. Senior shortstop Aaron Trattner had two hits and played a fine defensive game for the Knights.
'Our kids are showing a lot of effort and working hard,' Grodsky said. 'They know they're young and have a long ways to go in their baseball careers.'
For Bay, Kimple had three hits including two doubles, and James also had two hits.
For the moment, the Blue Dukes are confident again. Wojcinski and chief fan Nethen would like to see them stay that way.
'We got the lead, which was a huge help,' Wojcinski said. 'When we do that, we become confident and play well. We just need to make that happen more often.
'Maybe we can figure this out yet.'