After "catching cold" with its hitting last week in a horrendous six-game losing streak, the Menomonee Falls baseball team caught a fever with its bats this week, recording four straight Greater Metro Conference wins, including an impressive 11-5 home rally against archrival Sussex Hamilton Friday night.
"The old adage that hitting is contagious is true," said Indian coach Pat Hansen. "When you hit, it takes a lot of pressure off of you."
The Indians, who could scarcely manage 16 runs in six losses the previous week, scored 27 runs in four victories this past cycle in improving to 7-4 in Greater Metro Conference play and 11-6 overall.
Falls banged out 11 hits and took advantage of a couple of key Charger errors in rallying Friday from a 4-0 deficit for the second straight night.
Falls starter Brendan Paule was a little shaky in the beginning, as two walks and a two-run double by Hamilton clean-up hitter Trent Metzger made the score 2-0 in the top of the first.
It got even worse in the third, as the Chargers' Mike Barnes perfectly executed a safety squeeze to score one run and then a batter later Lucas Keller rapped an RBI double to make it 4-0.
But after that, Paule settled down and allowed only one other runner to reach third in three more innings of work. He finished with two strikeouts and three walks.
"Brendan did a nice job of battling back and keeping us in the game," said Hansen.
And in that time, the Indians would rally.
Falls chased the starter Keller in the third by scoring four runs on three hits with the help of one key error. Justin Johnson knocked in a run with a fielder's choice, Brett Krause brought in another with a sacrifice fly and then Paule and freshman designated hitter Ty Weber both came up with key two-out RBI singles to tie the score.
After Paule got out of a minor jam in the fourth, the Indians took the lead for good in their half of the inning by sending 11 men to the plate, notching six hits and scoring six runs in the process.
A walk and an error on a bunt started things and then that was followed by five straight singles, including run-scoring efforts from Cole Hernikl, Johnson, and Paule. Weber plated two runs with his own safety and three batters later, catcher Jordan Richardson scored the final run of the inning with a single of his own.
"Last week just had to be a fluke," said Hernikl, who was a NOW All-Suburban choice at second base last season. "Like coach said, Brendan started putting up zeros and then we started to put the bats together. No one is going to hold us to zero again. Our potential is just too great for that."
Paule did post another zero in the fifth and Johnson brought home his third run of the game with a single in the Indian fifth. Adam Vechart mopped up for Paule in the seventh.
Charger coach Mike Schramek, who had to replace six of nine starters last season, said his team has reached a competitive "plateau."
"We've done a nice job for the most part, but we have to establish an ability to go out and get the job done (when we have people down)," he said. "We have to finish." The Chargers, who had beaten the Indians, 7-3 last week, fell to 4-6 in GMC games and 8-7 overall.
Hansen is hoping to keep the momentum going. Falls will host last place West Allis Central on Monday and then visit defending state champ and current league leader Oak Creek on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. He has been very pleased with his team's response to last week's chaos.
"The big part of it," Hansen said, "was that we knew that we could hit. We're just too good a team not too. It's a credit to the kids. There was no 'woe is me', no finger-pointing. We just went out there and got the job done."
As a result, the talent-laden Indians have just one goal for the rest of the season.
"We just want to win every game from here on out," said Hernikl. "We're not looking ahead, it's going to be one game at a time. Hopefully we'll get hot at the right time."
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