Falls softball team needs two days but makes it back to state
Rain, Watertown both stubborn
It took two days and a dramatic finish to do it, but the Menomonee Falls girls softball team is heading back to the WIAA State Tournament for the first time since 2009 as the Indians outlasted a stubborn Watertown team, 4-1, in a sectional final game Friday.
Now it can safely be said that interim coach Nick Heiting, who is filling in for Wendy Wolff-Kirt, who is currently on maternity leave, has gotten the job done.
"This is phenomenal," Heiting said. "Everyone has just gotten into their roles, whether they're a star or a role player coming off the bench. They've all kept the team chemistry very, very good.
"... I'm just trying to let them do what they do. Play confident, be confident."
In earning the berth, the Indians (18-4) earned a state quarterfinal berth at approximately 3:30 p.m. Thursday against Appleton East (21-3). Play will continue through Friday night's semifinals and the Saturday 5:30 p.m. championship.
It is their third trip to state since 2003.
Pressure off, then back on
"We're pretty confident," sophomore third baseman Brittany Robinson said after the Indians 9-1 sectional semifinal rout of West Allis Hale on May 29. "We've worked hard at practice and have really come together as a team.
"We weren't the top seed like we were last year and that's taken a lot of pressure off of us. It should help us get back."
And it did, sort of.
The Indians fell in the regional final last season after being named the top seed in the sectional. This year, with a much younger team (four freshmen and five sophomores on the roster), they were the third seed, which suited Heiting just fine.
But then the sectional top seeds Oconomowoc and Mukwonago fell in the regional final round vaulting the Indians to top seed status again heading into the sectional.
"I was not at all happy about that (Mukwonago and Oconomowoc losing)," Heiting said. "That put us right back to where we were last year."
But as noted, the Indians responded well in the sectional semifinal against Greater Metro Conference rival Hale, as Robinson scored the first run of the game with an RBI triple in the third and then senior outfielder Maddie Eiklenmeyer blasted a two-run double to give the Indians a 3-0 advantage that they wouldn't surrender.
But the slap-hitting, small-ball playing Watertown team was a different order of business in the sectional final that was started on May 30 at Hartland Arrowhead. The Indians got off to a 2-0 lead in the third as Eikenmeyer had an RBI single and then infielder Angelica Labermeier hit a flare over the third baseman's head to make it 2-0.
With a 3-0 count on the first Watertown batter of the fourth, the game was called because of thunderstorms.
It was picked up on Friday afternoon.
"My first concern was if that girl walked (after picking up a 3-0 count) what would happen," Heiting said, "and sure enough she walked and the next girl hit an RBI double (to make it 2-1). That girl was then bunted over to third giving us even more problems."
But then pitcher Kelly Berglund settled down and got a strikeout and a groundout to end the threat.
Falls picked up two critical insurance runs in the fifth as Stephanie Cole walked and then Robinson laced a double to put runners on second and third. Claire Mohrfeld brought in one run with a groundout and then Eikenmeyer brought in another with a sacrifice fly.
Heiting wished he could say that the seventh inning was easier with a 4-1 cushion, but then again, he knows he would be lying.
"They loaded the bases with one out," Heiting said, "and a power hitter was up next. I went to the mound and I told them (including Berglund) that we have to get an out.
"The girls were saying, 'But she can hit it to the fence,' and I said 'just trust your pitching.' Kelly then got a pop-up to short and a pop-up to first to end it.
"We got it done."
Indians are on opposite side of bracket from Germantown.
WHAT IF?: The Indians have the possibility of facing their County Line rivals Germantown in the state final should it happen to work out. Falls coach Nick Heiting said that the Indians would love that opportunity. "It would be so cool," he said. "A couple of local teams making it to state. ... It would be fun to have a neighborhood rivalry at the state tournament."
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