There were so many good story arcs to think about as Menomonee Falls baseball coach Pat Hansen handed out brand-new white caps after his Indians had clinched the Greater Metro Conference title outright Monday night with a 5-1 decision over Marquette.
One was that it was senior night for six seniors who weren't so celebrated going into the campaign. They carried out the ritual of signing the big wooden Indianhead before the game that every senior class does.
Troy Kenkel, Joel Zyhowski, Nick Mandella, Cole Morris, Ryan Bowe and Paul Fitzgerald were the names now etched permanently into history.
This group had been picked for fifth behind two-time state champ Franklin, Muskego, Oak Creek, and Marquette, but instead found themselves as conference champions and conference tournament top seeds. They will host Marquette again on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in a GMC tourney quarterfinal having finished the regular season with a 17-3 league mark with a 24-3 overall record.
"Congratulations to the seniors," said Hansen. "I know some of you had to bide your time and didn't play a lot last year, but you worked hard and now find yourselves in a good station."
Part of the ritual with the new caps was that Hansen wanted to take pictures of the seniors with the Indianhead, which was another tip of the hat to what this group has achieved.
"This all shows that good, hard work pays off," said Hansen. "Setting good examples pays off. Just being good teammates pays off."
The players agreed.
"It feels good, really good," said the first baseman Kenkel, who had been at the state's senior all-star classic this weekend. "It looked like it was supposed to be a rebuilding year to others, but for us it was still the same high expectations. We needed to come out and do great things if we were to prove ourselves."
"We never hung our heads, we always picked each other up."
"It didn't feel good that we had been picked for fifth," said the centerfielder Zyhowski, "so we had to do something about it."
The second part of this tale was the championship banner pinned to the fence at Trenary. It already had 2012 emblazoned on it to go along with the other eight titles Falls (or North or East) had won in its storied baseball history even though going into the game the Indians had clinched no more than a tie for the title.
Theoretically, Oak Creek could have tied for the title had the Indians lost and the Knights beaten Sussex Hamilton, which they did, 5-4. Oak Creek finished at 16-4 and 20-6, respectively.
But a tie wasn't good enough for these Indians.
"We wanted to get it done cleanly," said Zyhowski. "It was the right way to do it. We're a little selfish that way (laughs)."
The third part of this story was the fact that the other GMC titles the Indians had won (in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010) had all come when the GMC was split into two divisions. This year, it's one 11-team conference.
"Even beating the seven other teams in the regular GMC would have been a nice accomplishment," said Hansen to the team, "but here you won it against a league that also includes Franklin, Oak Creek and Muskego. That's a heck of a conference to win."
The fourth part of all this was the clean way the Indians won the game.
They got a great pitching performance out of junior Brendan Paule (six innings, three strikeouts, one walk and five hits allowed); who was backed up by a great defensive effort, including a stellar fifth inning 6-4-3 doubleplay turned in by junior shortstop Brett Krause, junior second baseman Cole Hernikl and Kenkel at first.
It was a professional-level doubleplay said Hansen.
"That all comes back from the work we did in the Junior Indians' program (as kids)," said Zyhowski of the flash of leather.
Then there was the workmanlike way they took the lead. Along with the pitching and the defense, the Indians have speed this year. They stole six bases on the night, including two in the first inning.
In that frame, junior outfielder Justin Johnson started the rally with a one-out hustle bloop double that fell in amidst four Marquette fielders. Zyhowski followed that with an RBI single to right. After Zyhowski stole second, Krause brought him home with a single of his own.
The Indians would never be headed after that as insurance runs were knocked in by Hernikl in the second (single), in the third by junior Jimmy Kolz (single) and in the fourth by Krause (fielder's choice).
After reliever Fitzgerald got the final out in the seventh, the Indians conducted a celebratory dogpile in front of the pitcher's mound.
Hansen smiled for awhile before reminding the team of its next task.
"Ever since we've gone to this conference tournament a few years ago (which the Indians won in 2010), the regular season champion has never won the tournament, you guys have a chance to be the first," he said.
If the Indians beat Marquette again on Tuesday, they would host a semifinal on Thursday and would host the final on Friday if they get that far. Oak Creek, which Falls has split with this season, is the number two seed.
After that, comes the WIAA tourney series. Falls is the top seed in the Cedarburg sectional.
"We've still got things to do, some other goals ahead," said Kenkel.
Creating another set of story arcs in the process.
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