Menomonee Falls' senior softball pitcher Nikki Festge is a patient woman.
She's been on varsity for three years, but has been used primarily in reserve situations and last year, she was behind NOW All-Suburban selection Nicole Zywiec.
But Festge is now making the most of her opportunity in the spotlight, as she gave up just three hits with seven strikeouts as she led the Indians to a 4-0 victory over previously unbeaten West Allis Hale Friday night in a showdown for first place in the Greater Metro Conference.
"I'm feeling good about things," she said, after the Indians improved to 6-1 overall. "I felt confident going into this season because I knew I would have a good team behind me. We're very good at communicating to one another and everyone does a nice job doing their part."
Her coach Wendy Wolff, a former top-flight collegiate pitcher herself, agreed that Festge is indeed ready to help the Indians defend their GMC title.
"She just shut them down," said Wolff. "It's not an easy rolle to play (that of back-up), but she's handled it gracefully. This was by far her best game of the year. I'm very proud of her."
Festge's effort was particularly impressive given that Hale (4-1, 7-1) had scored 81 runs in its seven previous victories.
Falls is now 4-0 in the Greater Metro Conference.
The Indians gave Festge all the offensive support that she would need in the first when Maddie Eikenmeyer singled home Rachel Defnet, who had doubled.
Then they gave Festge more cushion than she would ever need in the third, as Falls punched across three runs on two hits with the help of two walks along with a wild pitch and a hit batsman from Hale pitcher Sarah Mueller.
The wild pitch scored Nicole Weggen with the first run of the frame and then freshman Kelly Berglund singled back through the box to plate the final two runs of the game.
"We have really pushed all year the idea of being aggressive, being aggressive every pitch," said Wolff. "Really push the issue, but do it well, because if you notice there are baserunning mistakes every game. You just want to be able to take advantage of a few mistakes each game."
"We were able to do that tonight. We really put everything together."
That they did, with a big hand from Festge and a defense that handled some difficult chances despite some gusty winds at the Nathan Hale Athletic Complex.
Festge gave up scratch singles in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but allowed no extra base hits with only one runner reaching second base. The Huskies went three up and three down in the seventh. Third baseman Rachel Seefeldt did have two hits for Hale.
Wolff is pleased with the progress her young team has shown so far this season. They had to replace three All-Suburban choices including Player of the Year Hailey Mohrfeld who was on hand at the game after playing her first season for UW-Green Bay.
Mohrfeld came to support the Indians, especially little sister Claire, who is in Falls' starting line-up this season. Hailey gave Festge a big congratulatory hug after the game.
'We're constantly challenging these kids to step up and become leaders," said Wolff. "Be aggressive. One thing we're really emphasizing on the field, is to stop being spectators and start becoming players."
The Indians were this night.
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