Everyone knew that veteran Menomonee Falls softball coach Wendy Kirt wanted to start a family as soon as she got married last summer to Falls assistant girls basketball coach Brian Kirt.
And things happened quickly as, in her own words, Kirt became pregnant “almost immediately” after the wedding, so she knew that some interesting decisions would have to be made with the softball program come her expected due date late April/early May.
“It’s always hard to let go,” she said.
And when she did announce about a month into the season that she was going on maternity leave, she turned to assistant coach coach Nick Heiting.
Heiting turned out to be more than up to job, as he led the young Indians, with only two senior starters and four seniors overall to a 19-5 season that included a Greater Metro Conference title and a berth in the WIAA state semifinals.
Good enough to earn Heiting NOW All-Suburban Coach of the Year honors.
“I just sat back and as soon as Wendy was ready to talk about it with people, I said I’ll do my part,” Heiting said. “I could see how she was feeling, but I had to show her I could handle it.”
Kirt always knew Heiting could.
“He has a real passion for the game, for the kids,” she said. “He’s enthusiastic about what he does, and that’s what you want to see in any teacher or coach. He was such a good choice. He always had the kids in good positions.”
“She made it clear that I was in charge,” Heiting said. “She told me ‘You’re the one they should be looking too.'”
Heiting was helped along by his steady, low-key team that was led by NOW All-Suburban choices sophomore pitcher Kelly Berglund and senior outfielder Maddie Eikenmeyer.
Both of whom worked to make the new coach feel welcome.
“At first we were a little worried about it,” Berglund said, “but he did a nice job. He asked a lot of good questions about what our goals were and what we needed to do to make them happen. He worked really hard on staying positive (when all the rain canceled numerous games in April and early May). He even scheduled a mini-Olympics (at practice). That really helped.”
“We had to adjust,” Eikenmeyer said. “It was a different coach, doing a few different things. We’d been doing certain things for so long, but he (Heiting) talked to the captains (herself, senior catcher Jamie Ertl and junior shortstop Claire Mohrfeld). We all knew our potential and we all knew that we had young talent coming up.
<FZ,1,0,5>“He made us comfortable because he sought out our opinions.”
It was something he learned while earning a bachelor’s in marketing and a master’s in business education from UW-Whitewater and while bouncing around the coaching ranks including stops at Brookfield Central, Wauwatosa East and Nicolet. This is in fact, his second stint with the Indians.
A big-time baseball enthusiast at Milwaukee Lutheran High School, he was asked to coach softball during one of his coaching and teaching stops and made it a quick study.
“I applied what I knew about baseball and then went to the big (softball) clinics. The big thing for me is always the proper technique,” Heiting said. “One of the hardest things was finding lineup chemistry, that and all the expectations.”
A man blessed with abundant nervous energy, Heiting is always bouncing around the dugout and he’s known to be a pacer in the coach’s box when the Indians are batting.
“I get criticized for that,” he said with a laugh. “I say it’s because I don’t get in enough workout time and because I just can’t find a good spot.”
And, as noted, the expectations of this always successful program were always looming just behind him.
“I didn’t want to let the team down,” he said.
With the steady hand Berglund having a hand in almost all of the eight shutouts the Falls’ pitching staff turned in this season and the hard-hitting Eikenmeyer leading an offense that had a .355 team batting average, the Indians played well once the weather cleared, winning 15 out of their last 17 games.
His coolness under fire and nervous energy rubbed off well on the team in that stretch, including in an oft-delayed, 2-0 win over Brookfield Central in the Greater Metro Conference championship game and then a 4-1 WIAA sectional final victory over Watertown that had to be postponed by a day due to weather.
Also included was an historic 1-0 victory over Appleton East in the state quarterfinals, Falls’ first win at state in over 30 years.
“It was our goal to get to state and when we got there, I wanted us to play loose and relaxed,” he said.
The Indians did that, as after the East win, they played with no fear against eventual Division 1 state champion Westosha Central, giving the Falcons their toughest tussle in the tournament before falling 2-1 in the semifinals in an impressive effort.
In short, he didn’t let the program down.
Heiting is keeping busy this summer, helping out with the Indians baseball team and playing Menomonee Falls Trysting Place Land O’ Lakes baseball.
Though he compiled an impressive resumé in the two short months he was head coach, he knows that the job is Kirt’s again next spring should she want it. Kirt said she is enjoying motherhood with her infant daughter and has not made any decisions yet.
“She’ll do what she wants to do,” Heiting said. “There’ll be a little more pressure on this team, as most everyone returns, but I’ve had fun, and I’ve enjoyed my opportunity.”
It shouldn’t be long before he gets another
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