It wasn't an ideal first-round matchup for the fifth seeded Hamilton baseball team. Brookfield Central, the 12th seed in its bracket, finished the season 7-24, but had won three of its final four regular-season contests. Even with Central's ace Justin Stollberg on the mound, a July 12 regional semifinal went Hamilton's way, 8-2, after a strong hitting performance from the Chargers.
Hamilton's top of the lineup got on Central in the bottom of the first with three consecutive hits by Sam Herriges, Drake Schreihart and Carson Youngquist. Youngquist's single past first base scored Herriges, and two batters later, Ty Botsford drove in Schreihart for a 2-0 lead.
Central scored two runs in the top of the second, with one run coming off Dillon Sehmer's single over the Hamilton second baseman's head to score John Schneider.
Youngquist said the Chargers weren't frustrated after Central tied the game at 2.
'Unearned runs have been the story of our season,' Youngquist said. 'But we've been so used to being tied or down, we've come back from everything before. I think those hits we had early on in the next inning really helped us out a lot. Then we went up ... and carried it from there.'
In the bottom half of the inning, Hamilton put together three hits and a run. Stollberg was pulled after 2 1/3 innings, since the St. Louis University recruit was on a 60-pitch count because of an elbow injury suffered in April.
'That's a key to us hitting well is getting high in the pitch count, working so we see more fastballs,' Youngquist said. 'We're a good fastball-hitting team.'
Hamilton coach Mike Schramek knew Stollberg would be dangerous on the mound, even with a pitch count.
'We were ready to make the adjustment if he was going to come out showing that he was going to throw strikes,' Schramek said. 'We wanted him to show that first before we got in there and started hacking. To our guys' credit, they sat there and waited for pitches to be strikes. When they were, we put them in play. When they weren't, they weren't swinging the bat. You add all that up, it makes for a high pitch count.'
Hamilton had 12 hits in the game. Youngquist, Schreihart, Botsford, Herriges and Will Geels all had two hits each against Central.
'We've hit like that, I would say, fairly consistently all year, but the key to it is in the moment,' Schramek said. 'I'm so proud of these guys. I've got so much respect for (Central) coach (Jeff) Bigler and for their team. I know they don't have the greatest record, but with their pitcher coming back, we knew that we had a huge challenge in front of us. I'm just so, so proud of us for doing what we did.'
With over half of its win total earned in the final week and a half of the regular season, Bigler liked his team's chances coming into the playoffs.
'We felt, obviously, very confident coming in,' Bigler said. 'We knew we had the horses to compete. Credit to Hamilton, they put the ball in play. You put the ball in play in the diamond, you never know where it's going to go. ... Every ball is an adventure on a field late in the summer, that's for sure.'
Bigler was proud of his team's second-inning comeback.
'Dillon Sehmer had a 16-pitch at bat and then got a base hit to tie the game,' Bigler said. 'We answered their two right back with two. It was unfortunate because then we couldn't make a play in the field and they took the momentum right back. With the swings like that, after you get punched you punch back, you've got to keep them off the board that second inning. We didn't do that.'
Schreihart scored a run in the fourth, and Botsford drove in Youngquist off a single to give Hamilton a 6-2 advantage. Herriges tripled in the fifth to score Patton Germann, and in the sixth, Jacob Lonkoski scored for the Chargers' eighth run.
Drew Schreihart threw a complete game for Hamilton, striking out three, allowing two walks and two hits.
'Drew pitched outstanding,' Youngquist. 'He has been for the entire season. I think he really carried us this game.'
Schreihart threw 97 pitches in the victory.
'I've seen Drew sharper with all three of his pitches, but what makes him so important for our team is he's just so reliable,' Schramek said. 'He'll do what needs to be done in the moment. He'll make pitches. I'm just so proud of him.'