GRAND CHUTE (WLUK) -- Green Bay Preble opened the Division 1 state baseball tournament Tuesday by outlasting Kimberly 3-2 in eight innings to advance to a semifinal later in the day.
Beating the defending state champs had the Hornets feeling good about themselves, but about nine hours later the Hornets experienced the opposite feeling.
Battling Waunakee in a state semifinal Preble, the Hornets were one win away from state championship Thursday. However, the Warriors this time outlasted Preble 3-1 in 11 innings at Fox Cities Stadium to end the Hornets' season in heartbreaking fashion.
"It's draining," Preble coach Conard said. "We battled hard. It was a long game, we had a lot of chances. Our pitchers really sucked it up in some tough spots; we made some great defensive plays. It was the last team to blink and they got a couple of big hits. Just didn't work out."
Preble (21-4) was 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and with runners on first and third base in the bottom of the 11th the Hornets' final three batters each struck out.
"We had our chances," Conard said. "I told our guys it wasn't for a lack of trying. We were so close. when you get this close and lose, it's hard."
Preble left 10 runners on base, while Waunakee left 14 on base. Nonetheless, Waunakee (20-6) found a way in the 11th inning to plate two runs.
"I think Waunakee clutched up in situations," Preble catcher Casey Roeser said. "It's tough to take."
The game ended quite a day for the Hornets, who remain in search of their first state title. Conard had a long talk with the team afterwards and there were plenty of hugs to go around.
He didn't want to talk about it, but Conard talked about what his team accomplished this spring, including making a third straight trip to the state tournament.
"We're really proud of our guys and take a lot of pride in what they've done," Conard said. "I couldn't have asked for more than they gave us this year.
"In the moment it stings and it hurts and we definitely feel that."
"It's a tough loss," Roeser said. "Both teams had multiple opportunities every inning to score that final run. Waunakee just came out on top.
"Making the state tournament three years in a row is now small feat," Roeser said.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay