Menomonee Falls girls softball builds on 2013 with 5-0 start
Former assistant Sanicola takes the reins as coach
How does first-year Menomonee Falls girls softball coach Lou Sanicola build on 2013, the best year in the program's history?
By having an even better 2014.
The Indians, with 11 returning letter-winners, are ranked sixth in state in a preseason poll for the Wisconsin Softball Coaches' Association and are off to a furious 5-0 start this campaign including a three-game sweep in the Waukesha West round-robin Saturday.
"We are very fortunate this year," said Sanicola. "We have a very deep team. Even our reserves are very good kids and we were able to get them all at least one start on Saturday. The interesting thing is, even though we're a veteran team, we're still a young team. The only senior that we have who's played a lot is Claire (veteran shortstop and co-captain Mohrfeld). The others who are veterans are still young.
"And the others, who haven't played a lot, are hungry."
Though Sanicola is new to the head job, he is not new to the program, having served six years as an assistant for Wendy Kirt.
Kirt left the position early last season for maternity leave, turning over the reins to interim coach Nick Heiting, who was named NOW All-Suburban coach of the year after leading the Indians to a Greater Metro Conference title and a berth in the WIAA state semifinals where they lost a tough 2-1 decision to eventual champion and preseason No. 1 in the state Westosha Central.
Kirt is coming in once a week to help out with the pitchers including junior returning NOW All-Suburban team selection and third-team all-state choice Kelly Berglund, who went 12-4 last season with a 1.24 ERA and a groundbreaking 1-0 win over state power Appleton East in the WIAA state quarterfinals.
Berglund already has a one-hitter in a 2-0 win over Greater Metro Conference rival DSHA on April 1, and threw two no-hitters Saturday, a seven-inning 9-0 piece against Waukesha West and a five-inning, nine-strikeout effort over Racine Park (20-0).
"She's such a hard worker, and so mentally tough," said Sanicola. "She just sets a great example for the rest of the team."
Other returnees include the senior Mohrfeld at shortstop and junior NOW All-Suburban high honorable mention selection Brittany Robinson at third base.
Elsewhere on the infield, junior letter-winner Angelica Labermeier will play first and serve as a back-up to Berglund and at second, another veteran in sophomore Ashley Zdroik, who will also serve as a back-up catcher.
At catcher, another letter-winner, junior Justine Ertl, will take over where her now graduated sister Jamie used to play. In the outfield sophomore letter-winner Stephanie Cole will man center and another veteran senior Tina Kolinski will hold down the fort.
In right, senior Lauren Poth will try to fill the shoes of graduated NOW All-Suburban choice and second-team all-state selection Maddie Eikenmeyer. Falls will hold 16 players on the roster, including senior infielder/DH Taylor Paulson, who also saw a great deal of action in last year's state tournament series.
Sanicola is keeping in place many of the tendencies, trends and practices that have made the Indians a success for over a decade.
"I was fortunate enough to have worked with Wendy (Kirt) for a lot of years and I picked up a lot of stuff from her," he said. "She was very well organized and I learned a lot from her."
Other co-captains along with Mohrfeld (who also held that spot last season), include Berglund, Robinson and Ertl.
Higher expectations for the Indians this season will mean they have to stay on their toes every game.
"We got a taste of that high-level competition a year ago," said Sanicola. "It showed us that we could compete at that level. We know we'll have a target on our back. No one is going to be taking us lightly."
Winning big early
But even though opponents know that, it's not making it any easier on them in the early going. They have outscored their opposition 53-6 in five games including the 2-0 GMC win over DSHA on April 1, a 12-2 nonconference victory over area rival and North Shore Conference champion Germantown on April 2.
In the West round-robin, they opened with Berglund's two no-hitters with freshman Ciera Jones earning the win in the 10-4 triumph over Brookfield East in the last game of the day.
Labermeier (five strikeouts) got the win over Germantown as the Indians scored in each of the first four innings and then broke the game open with a five-run sixth.
Before they go on spring break, the Indians will have a hectic week, including conference games with Brookfield East (April 7), West Allis Hale (April 8) and then a road contest with Brookfield Central at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10.
On Friday, April 11, they will have a rugged nonconference triangular at Watertown as Falls will take on both the 10th-ranked Goslings and also fourth-ranked and returning state runner-up Kenosha Bradford.
"Confidence is very, very high," said Sanicola.
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