Berglund and Ertl work hand in glove to lead Menomonee Falls softball team
Both earn All-Sub nods
For pitcher Kelly Berglund and catcher Justine Ertl, it was as they say in the classic "Casablanca","The beginnings of a beautiful friendship."
All of those surrounding the successful Menomonee Falls girls softball team would agree.
The pair, who were just named to the NOW All-Suburban softball team (Berglund for the second time), helped lead the Indians to a second straight 25-5 overall record which included a repeat Greater Metro Conference championship and a second straight berth in the WIAA State Tournmament.
For Ertl, it was a happy welcome back to a position she's very accustomed to. The younger sister of former Indian great Jamie Ertl, Justine played first last year while Jamie caught.
"The big difference is that I'm a lefty and she's a righty," chuckled Justine. "...The only reason I didn't catch all those years is because Jamie was there."
The sisters follow each other in the hockey world too, as Jamie just finished her freshman year at UW-Stevens Point where she plays the sport. Meanwhile Justine is also a defenseman for the Germantown/Menomonee Falls co-op.
And Justine is a winner in other ways serving as a back-up setter to all-stater Abby Becker off the state champion Indian girls volleyball team of the fall.
But she really likes her softball, having started in t-ball at age four and staying with it ever since.
"It was just very natural for me," she said.
So is working with Berglund.
"I've caught for her in the past," said Justine. "...She's awesome to work with. She works so hard and you get her best everyday. She puts the pitches where they're called. I don't have to do a lot of reaching or blocking."
Justine likes the position of catcher better than first base.
"I can see the entire field and position people correctly," she said. Justine's leadership showed up in other ways too as she threw out over 50 percent of would-be base-stealers and had enough trust from first-year coach Lou Sanicola that she and Berglund would call their own game.
"Very few pitches were called from the coaching staff or dugout" said Sanicola.
Justine's bat was also sturdy enough to hit .417 on the year including the clutch first RBI in the sectional final win over Watertown where she also threw out the potential tieing run trying to steal third.
For her efforts, she earned third team all-state honors.
Justine said the school made a good choice with Sanicola as a permanent coach this year after last season where long-time coach Wendy Wolff-Kirt went on maternity leave and Nick Heiting earned NOW All-Suburban Coach of the Year honors serving as interim coach.
"He's been with the program for six or seven years and he was with the freshmen when I was a freshman so I had a chance to work with him," Justine said of Sanicola. "He's provided good stability."
So did Berglund, who came on strong last season in the Indians' long playoff run last season that ended in the WIAA state semifinals.
She improved spectacularly this year, going unbeaten in GMC games at 10-0 and only giving up two earned runs in four WIAA playoff games. Overall, the Indians finished at 14-0 in GMC contests.
But where the honorable mention all-state selection Berglund really improved was at the plate as she led the team in batting (.512), on-base percentage (.590), runs (17), and was in the top three in doubles, triples, home runs and RBIs.
"It started in the off-season," she said. "A lot of practice time, hitting every night into a net in my basement. I also worked hard on the mental aspect (of hitting) of it. I had more of a game-plan at the plate. Last year I was a little too anxious, I would just swing at the first strike I saw."
Her pitching also improved with a dramatically low 0.85 ERA.
"I worked on developing my drop ball and change-up," she said. "I worked very hard at keeping people off-base."
Sanicola was greatly impressed by Berglund's achievements this spring.
"She was the top pitcher, hitter and MVP for one of the top teams in the area," he said. "She has the rare ability to dominate from the mound and from the batter's box. All around great kid and great player."
The two juniors are now even more motivated to get better. The Indians lose all-conference shortstop Claire Mohrfeld and Taylor Paulson among the key players as well as Tina Kolinski and Lauren Poth but the rest of the roster is back.
Both will get a lot of experience this summer with Pride of the Midwest and they will then start thinking about next season. The Indians tested themselves with a difficult schedule this year and the loss in the state tournament to area rival Germantown sort of sticks in their craws.
"We have a lot of talent coming back," said Berglund, "and we have a lot of motivation going into next year."
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