Tyler Zietz’s hands shook as he fidgeted with the buttons his jersey.
Beads of sweat slowly dripped off his forehead.
The adrenaline from what had just transpired still had a strong hold of the Sheboygan South junior pitcher.
Zietz was even a bit short of breath just moments after the Redwings had stunned cross-town rival Sheboygan North with a seven-run seventh inning to win 10-8 in a WIAA Division 1 regional final at Wildwood Baseball Park on Thursday.
“It was awesome,” Zietz said. “We got a couple hits together and things kept rolling and rolling, we never put our heads down.”
Things didn’t look good for South entering the final inning, as North had built an 8-3 lead on the strength of two home runs by Dominic Mahn and another by Cody Weis.
Zietz led off the top of the seventh against Tyler Van Calligan — who had pitched well to that point — with a single. John Raff then walked and Carter Amundsen singled to load the bases.
North coach Chris Wright then chose to pull Van Calligan for Andy Seymour, and Robert Hoffmann greeted the reliever with a three-run double to left center on an 0-2 pitch, pulling South to within two. Four batters and three singles later and the game was tied.
“We knew (Seymour) hadn’t pitched in a while, knew he was going to try and get that first-pitch strike,” Zietz said. “The guys hit the first pitch hard and found a hole.”
Weston Nelson then came on in relief of Seymour, and had to face freshman AJ Gutierrez with the leading run on second base. On a 1-2 pitch, Gutierrez singled to right driving in Matt Miller to give South the lead for good.
“I was sitting on fastball,” Gutierrez said. “I was kind of nervous but I just figured since I struck out the at-bat before, this one I’ve got to make it count.”
Zietz and the rest of the Redwings took the emotion of their seven-run rally and retired North in order in the bottom of the seventh, capping an improbable comeback and sending South to a sectional semifinal Tuesday at 1 p.m. against Madison La Follette at Oconomowoc.
Zietz tossed a complete game to earn the win. He allowed eight runs, however just two were earned as South had six errors.
“Tyler’s a tough kid, he didn’t let it rattle him at all,” South coach Craig Kloes said. “He pitched a really good game.”
Amundsen had a particularly rough game at shortstop, committing five errors — four in the first three innings — but his teammates were there to pick him, especially Zietz.
“I just tried to stay positive out there,” Zietz said. “It’s frustrating but you can’t let it out because then it affects the whole team. In the fifth inning I went over to him and said, ‘You got it, there’s a lot of game left, this is a close game, you just have to make the next play.'”
“One thing that we all do, not just coaches but it’s teammates is we pick each other up,” Kloes said. “Carter’s been one of our best players if not our best player all year. We live and die as a team, there’s no one individual that wins and there’s no one that loses.”
Despite having just two seniors on its roster, South’s players are loaded with experience in big games, including a trip to sectionals a year ago.
“These guys, they’ve been through a lot,” Kloes said. “Having teamed up with the northside and winning JV Legion (state) championship the last two years, they’ve been in some pretty big games. This is just another big game and they handle pressure well.”
Playing with that emotion and pressure is something Zietz and the rest of the Redwings seem to relish.
“I loved it, I wanted that opportunity,” Zietz said.