An early lead in baseball is everything, and getting a big early advantage in a state playoff game is almost worth the price of gold.
The Menomonee Falls baseball team pounced on Brown Deer starter Drew Worth's four consecutive walks to start the game Wednesday night in a WIAA regional semifinal contest and parlayed that advantage into a six-run first inning, never looking back in earning a 9-3 victory.
"You hate to see that, especially for the kid," said Falls coach Pat Hansen, "but that being said, we needed an inning like that to gain some confidence. ..Scoring runs like that early is the best thing we can do for ourselves."
Falcon coach Mike Donahue, who had to pull his senior ace after the four free passes, was flummoxed at the turn of events.
"That is so very unlike him," said Donahue of Worth, "because at times this year he has been dominating. He just couldn't find it (the plate)."
With the win, the Indians improved to 18-10 and will advance to a WIAA regional final on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at West Bend West at Regner Park while the Falcons ended their campaign at 14-16.
The game was the last for Donahue as coach, as he was caught up in a series of lay-offs the Brown Deer district had to put in place.
Further complicating matters for the Falcons this evening, their bus broke down in the Trenary Field parking lot and that left players scrambling for rides home with family and friends, as a replacement unit was being called in.
It was that kind of night it was for the Falcons, as after Falls' Cole Hernikl, Kevin Snyder, Justin Johnson and Brett Krause walked in the first, Brown Deer's Ryan Hudson came in try to stem the tide, but the Indians sensed an opportunity and seized it with a bulldog grip.
Jimmy Kolz greeted Hudson with an RBI single and a fielder's choice by Ty Weber plated the third run of the frame. That was followed by an RBI double from starting and winning pitcher Brendan Paule and then a dropped pop fly led to another score.
A bases-loaded walk to Snyder scored the sixth and final run of the frame.
That first strike proved to be more than enough ballast for Paule, who danced in and out of trouble over the course of five innings with one strikeout and one walk.
He got more support in the second on an RBI single by Weber.
Brown Deer made a small push in the fourth as Austin Schwark hit an RBI single and Gerry Gilles brought in another score on a fielder's choice, but two flyouts to right stranded runners at second and third.
"We actually hit the ball opretty well tonight," said Donahue, noting that Brown Deer had 11 hits on the night led by Zach Miller with three safeties and Hunter Betts with two.
Falls punched back in the fourth on an RBI single by Kolz and in the fifth on a wild pitch that plated another Indian tally.
Worth knocked in the final Falcon run in the sixth with a single, but the reliever Kolz left Brown Deer wanting more as a fielder's choice ended the inning and left the bases loaded.
Weber pitched a scoreless seventh for the Indians as Kolz led the Indians with three hits and two RBI.
"I liked how we never quit, we kept battling," said Donahue, who spent a long time with his team just outside of first base after the game giving them his final pep talk, while Falls PA announcer Jerry Mislang graciously thanked the six Falcon seniors by name for their service to the team in their final game.
Hansen was encouraged by the victory, the fourth in a row for Falls. He is hoping the Indians, who had a veteran squad coming into this season but who endured an up-and-down regular season, can build from here.
"There's a certain amount of urgency when it comes to the playoffs," he said. "A 'do-or-die' kind of mentality, but we have a team that believes if they play like they feel they can, they can still accomplish all the goals they set out at the beginning of the season."
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