Falls' Festge shuts down Hale to put Indians softball team in GMC lead
Senior has best game of year
Menomonee Falls - Senior softball pitcher Nikki Festge is patient.
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 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 on 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, agrees that Festge is indeed ready to help the Indians defend their GMC title.
"She just shut them down," Wolff said. "It's not an easy roll to play (that of backup), 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 Greater Metro Conference play.
The Indians gave Festge all the offensive support 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.
Being aggressive on the bases
"We have really pushed all year the idea of being aggressive, being aggressive every pitch," Wolff said. "Really push the issue, but do it well, because if you notice there are base running 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 started by working the ball low and then often finished off the Huskie batters by getting them to swing at pitches high in the strike zone.
She 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 had two hits for Hale.
Replacing star contributors
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 lineup this season. Hailey gave Festge a big congratulatory hug after the game.
"We're constantly challenging these kids to step up and become leaders," Wolff said. "Be aggressive. One thing we're really emphasizing on the field, is to stop being spectators and start becoming players."
FALLS 18, SUSSEX HAMILTON 13: This crazy, messy affair on April 23 insulted the sensibilities of the former pitcher Wolff ("Oh yes it did," she laughed ruefully) but she was still happy to come out with the "W" in the battle of early season GMC unbeatens. The Indians had a 12-1 lead after three-and-a-half innings, but saw the Chargers (4-1, 5-2) score six times off Festge and reliever and eventual winner Berglund. The score got as close as 14-9 when Hamilton scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, but then Falls put the game away with four more tallies in the top of the seventh.
Both teams had 19 hits, but the Chargers helped the Indians with seven errors. Centerfielder Defnet had four hits including a triple and two RBI while Jamie Ertl (two RBI) had three hits and two runs scored and Claire Mohrfeld (three RBI) had a home run and three runs scored among her three singles. Berglund had two hits, two runs scored and two RBI and Brittany Robinson had two hits, two runs scored and three RBI. Weggen also had two hits.
WHAT: Falls plays GMC games on four successive days this week, including hosting Tosa East at 4:15 p.m. Thursday. The Indians then travel to Wilmot for a two-game tournament Saturday. The Indians had their game with West Allis Central on April 25 postponed by rain. They host the Bulldogs on May 14 and then visit them the next day on May 15.
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