Westin Wuethrich had no reason to believe he was going to be yanked from the game Wednesday.
Greenwood’s starting pitcher cruised through the opening inning, facing the minimum number of Wausaukee batters with a pair of strikeouts in their WIAA Division 4 state semifinal matchup.
There wasn’t an injury that cropped up over the course of his 13-pitch opening inning.
Yet, when Greenwood took the field in the bottom of the second inning it was James Hlavac — not Wuethrich — picking the ball up off the mound and beginning his warm-up tosses.
The pitching change was all part of Greenwood coach Kent Hinker’s master plan — a strategy made much easier by an eight-run uprising in the top of the second to save his right-handed ace for today’s state championship game.
Greenwood and Hlavac wound up finishing off the Rangers 11-1 in five innings at Fox Cities Stadium to earn a date with Lake Country Lutheran at 9 a.m. today with a state championship on the line.
“My brain was telling me four or five runs (ahead) and I would go to James and see how he would react,” said Hinker of toying with the notion of lifting Wuethrich early in the state semifinals.
“Absolutely, everybody would want to have their No. 1 to take it home in a championship game,” Hinker added. “We’re right where we want to be.”
Wuethrich, who owns a 5-2 record with a stingy 1.03 earned run average, will have six innings left on his pitching ledger today.
Of course, the pitching move never would have been possible if Hlavac didn’t hold up his end of the deal, although the timing caught the junior left-hander off guard a little.
“We knew Westin was going to start the game, but I was expecting to come in at some point. I was able to get a quick warm-up on the side,” Halavac said. “I usually have a little more time, but my fastball was good and it all worked out good.”
Actually, better than good.
Hlavac worked the final four innings, surrendering one earned run on four hits, while walking one and striking out four.
His only trouble came in the bottom of the third inning when Wausaukee loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of hits and a walk, but Hlavac limited the damage to just one run.
Now Greenwood can turn its attention on winning the school’s first state championship since 1990, and cap of recent run of success that included three straight sectional appearances and back-to-back trips to the state tournament.
A sectional semifinal loss to Johnson Creek a year ago may have helped make this opportunity happen.
“We don’t know much about what happened between the last time we won a championship, but now we’ve got a chance to play in the big time game,” senior outfielder Alexander Volovsek said. “I think we learned from our mistakes ( last year) and we realize we have to play hard thoughout the game.”
A championship game that will have Greenwood well-armed to end a 23-year state championship drought.
“We have a great pitcher throwing tomorrow. The kids are all excited and we’re going to try our best to make it happen,” Hinker said.