Ace pitchers have blast for Eisenhower, too
McRae, Vlaj belt homers in victory over Whitnall
Greenfield — It's well known that Adam Vlaj and Alex McRae comprise one of the top pitching tandems in the greater Milwaukee area.
But future opponents would be advised not to take the dynamic New Berlin Eisenhower duo lightly at the plate, as Vlaj and McRae again proved conclusively in the Lions' 6-5 come-from-behind victory over host Whitnall on Thursday.
Eisenhower (22-6, 16-2) clinched at least a share of the Woodland Conference Black Division title. The Lions, who have four games left, can lock up the title outright Friday, when they meet Wauwautosa West at 5 p.m. They last won a conference title in 1996.
The victory was ultimately made possible by Vlaj, a senior who hammered a two-run homer to leftfield with one out in the seventh. It proved to be enough when starting pitcher Kelvin Hall gave way to McRae, a hard-throwing junior, in the bottom half of the inning. Nine pitches and two strikeouts later, the Lions were celebrating in the middle of field.
"He threw hard," said Vlaj, who went 2 for 4 and scored two runs, including one on a fifth-inning grand slam by McRae. "I just took the mentality that I had to put the bat on the ball and it just so happened that it carried a little bit more than I thought it would."
The same goes for Whitnall's Nolan White who moved to left after being lifted at the start of the inning with a pitch count of 111. Breaking back on McRae's slam as it arched majestically toward the houses beyond the left-field fence, White stepped in a rut and went down in a heap. He was diagnosed with a sprained left lateral collateral knee ligament and will be re-evaluated Saturday.
As White lay crumpled on the ground getting medical attention, the Lions were jumping for joy at home plate.
"Those are the guys that you hope step up," Eisenhower coach Scott Schimmel said. "Great players make great plays, and they stepped in the limelight and they performed tonight."
So too did White, with a workhorse performance that included a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth to give Whitnall a 5-4 lead after McRae's blast gave Eisenhower the lead in the top of the inning.
"He's a competitor; nothing bothers him," said Whitnall coach Brian Johnsen, whose club dropped to 15-10 and 12-6. "He moves on right to the next pitch. We know he's capable."
Let there be no remaining doubt that the same holds true of McRae and Vlaj.
"They're our two best hitters; they're our two best pitchers," Schimmel said. "I mean, you just can't say enough about their performance. Alex performed in the bottom of the seventh to slam the door and obviously came up with a huge hit and threw the baseball (well) when he got the opportunity. You just can't say enough."
On this day, it was the duo's hitting that did most of the talking.
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Pitchers - NBE: Kelvin Hall (W, 6IP, 5K); Alex McRae (S, IP, 2K). WHI: Nolyn White (6IP, 4K, BB); Brock McGinn (L, IP, 2K, BB). Leading hitters - NBE: Brian York 2x4; Dan York 1x4 (2B); Adam Vlaj 2x4 (HR, 2RBI); McRae 2x3 (HR, 4RBI). WHI: White 1x3 (HR, 2RBI); Geoff Wisialowski 2x3 (2B, 2RBI). Record - NBE 22-6, 16-2; WHI 15-10, 12-6.
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