Jason Booth was faced with a tough decision.
On one hand, the Brookfield Bulldogs' skipper could have accepted a crucial win for his team. But to the veteran manager, that wouldn't have been the right way to end a well-played game between two Land O'Lakes rivals on July 23.
Lighting and rain suspended play between Brookfield and the Pewaukee Muskies, with the Bulldogs hitting in the bottom of the seventh with the score tied 1-1. The Muskies had just tied the game with a run in the top of the seventh. Per league rules, the game would have reverted back to the last completed inning and gone final.
That would have meant a 1-0 win for the Bulldogs. Instead, Booth agreed to pick the game up where it left off at a date to be determined.
'It was absolutely a tough call,' Booth said. 'The grand championship over the last five years have been decided between these two teams. It was a heck of a tough call, but I think it was the right and honest thing to do. We'll settle it like men on the field, and the better team will win.'
Lemke, Henschel battle on the mound
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Pewaukee ace Brian Henschel.
Back in town and playing for Brookfield just this past weekend, retired outfielder Kris Franzen reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a passed ball by Muskies catcher Brandon Werner. After Henschel hit Randy Sobczyk with a pitch, Scott Booth lined base hit right-center field to score Franzen.
Making just his second start of the season, Bulldog right-hander Josh Lemke kept the Muskies off the scoreboard for six innings. He worked out of trouble in the first inning, retiring Brock Guetzke on a fielder's choice and getting Greg Harder to line out to second with two runners on.
Lemke received some help from his defense in the third, as the Bulldogs executed a perfect rely to nab the potential tying run at the plate.
After Trent Borgardt reached on a two-out single, Nick Wichser roped a double to the wall in left-center field. Bulldogs left fielder Dan Barwick quickly got the ball to shortstop Mike Jacobs, who fired it to catcher Mike Mierow in time to tag Borgardt.
'I made a couple of mistakes early, but my defense made a couple of nice plays,' Lemke said. 'Scott (Booth) had two nice ones right away in the first inning that helped us get out of a jam. Then I got into a rhythm and started keeping them off balance. My change-up started moving a little bit.'
Lemke allowed just two base runners over the next three innings before Josh Sarcia reached on an infield single with one out in the seventh. Henschel popped out to shortstop for the second out, but Mike Grabarczyk doubled to left-center to score Sarcia and tie the game.
Jacobs led off the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Barwick. The count was 1-0 on Mierow when the umpires spotted lightning and put the game into delay.
As it became clear the weather wouldn't allow the game to continue, Jason Booth and Muskies manager Mike Wichser met with Land O'Lakes Commissioner Craig Larsen, who was in attendance. It didn't take Booth long to decide to continue the game at a later date.
Lemke, who hadn't pitched more than five innings since May 29, allowed just the one run on seven hits with one strikeout over seven innings.
'Josh Lemke has been the man in big situations more times than I can count,' Booth said. 'He's a guy I can count on. We had a rough situation with our pitching staff with a couple of guys on vacation. I called on Josh to have the big game. Once again, he shone.'
Henschel entered second in the Land O'Lakes in strikeouts with 65 and second in ERA at 1.43. He stranded runners at third in three different innings to keep the Muskies within one run.
Potential postseason preview
The Muskies and Bulldogs have combined to win the last five grand championships. After Brookfield took home consecutive titles in 2011 and 2012, Pewaukee won the last three.
Currently ranked as the top amateur baseball team in Tier A in Wisconsin, Pewaukee came into the July 23 game 20-3 overall and 11-1 in Land O'Lakes play, leading the Lake Country Division. The Bulldogs are ranked seventh in the state in Tier B.
'You have to be on your A-game when you are playing Pewaukee,' Lemke said. 'I knew well in advance I was going to be pitching today so I could prepare. I came out ready to face a good team and keep them off-balanced.
'Once you get into the playoffs, there are going to be a bunch of teams coming ready. Having games like this toward the end of the year is always huge for momentum and building our confidence that we can beat anybody.'