Menomonee Falls baseball coach Pat Hansen has it correct about this summer's very interesting season.
"Would have, could have," he said. "It's just a funny game. Looking at the teams in the (state) finals, we should have beaten the one (eventual WIAA runner-up Homestead) and we beat the other (state champ Brookfield Central) twice.
"We felt bad, but we have nothing to be ashamed about. All of life is timing. It was just that not much separated one team from the other in the end."
That much is true. The Indians' rebuilding 22-11 season had a great many things to say for it. They had lost many moving parts from a talented team in 2013 that didn't quite achieve all it could have.
They had only a handful of returnees from that squad but one of them was 6-foot-4 first-team All-GMC sophomore pitcher Ty Weber, who had a spectacular 8-1 season. At times he was dominant, beating Greater Metro Conference regular season co-champ and tourney champ Marquette as well as state qualifier Oak Creek and state champ Brookfield Central.
Unfortunately, the one loss was when he was not feeling well against Homestead in the WIAA sectional semifinal (see July 24 issue of the NOW for details), but the University of Illinois recruit worked well with the other returnees as well as a mixed group of inexperienced but talented sophomores through seniors to give Falls a fine season.
Falls was ragged and inconsistent at the start.
"Very inconsistent," said Hansen. "There was a stretch of games where we were 10-runned three times and then we turned around and 10-runned three teams ourselves."
But gradually, the Indians began to fit the pieces together. Senior Derek Johnson went on to become the regular second baseman and had a sound season including the game-winning hit in the 1-0 GMC tournament quarterfinal win over West Allis Hale.
Sophomore Zach Kornburger took over at shortstop and combined with Johnson to form a very solid middle of the infield.
Other veterans like senior pitcher/outfielder Tommy Wolf and senior outfielder Daniel Dahlke (first team All-GMC choice) also filled in and did well for Falls.
But things didn't fully come together until after a bad 8-4 late June loss to rival Sussex Hamilton. The Indians were coming off a fine Weber-led 4-3 win over Oak Creek, and Hansen thought the team was sliding back into its old inconsistent ways again.
"I called them out (the seniors, Wolf, Adam Vechart, Johnson and Dahlke among them) after that loss," said Hansen. "I told them that as long as this program has been successful, it has only been as good as its seniors. That they determine how far we go. Not always in terms of production, but much more in terms of leadership.
"I told them I didn't like the demeanor we had (after that loss) and that we needed to right the ship if we wanted to keep improving. Things could have unraveled after that point, but these kids kept it together. They took the criticism and did something about it."
They did it in the form of winning the next five games in a row, including a 5-2 decision over Central, and nine of their final 11. The only losses were a tough 5-4 decision to Marquette in the GMC tourney semifinals and the defeat to Homestead.
In short, it left Hansen with a good taste in his mouth.
"The way I feel now compared to the way I felt at the end of last season is completely different (meaning better)," he said. "It's a completely different overall atmosphere."
The second-team All-GMC selection Wolf helped out Weber on the hill finishing his career with a 5-2 season, including three shutouts. Dahlke also hit two home runs in the dramatic regional final victory over Grafton.
Junior centerfielder Michael Bowe had a fine season in the field and hitting lead-off as well as serving as a solid third pitcher for Falls.
Sophomore catcher Josh Schwechel gained valuable experience late in the season and underclassmen infielders Lukas Kell and Boyd Sansone both had their moments down the stretch.
The full group of seniors included Johnson, Alex Rynning, Jordan Richardson, Dahlke, Wolf and Vechart.
"We'll miss those kids," said Hansen.
But the Indians will have returning strength up the middle with the likes of Weber, Bowe, Schwechel, and Kornburger coming back as well as the likes of infielders like Kell, Sansone and junior Josh Zahn.
The freshmen were 20-3 and the junior varsity 23-6.
"We'll have a good group coming back," said Hansen, "but they'll have to work hard. We just hope that they can continue to improve."
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