No longer a young team, though the talented battery on display tonight was all-sophomore, the still youthful Menomonee Falls baseball team threw a big monkey wrench into the Greater Metro Conference race tonight with an efficient and stunning 5-2 win over league leader Brookfield Central.
Sophomore ace pitcher Ty Weber held in check his second strong line-up in a row (after defeating Oak Creek last week) using a change of speed to strike out six and induce lazy flyball after flyball.
Meanwhile, his catcher, fellow sophomore Josh Schwechel hit a two-run double to right-center off Lancer ace Elijah Goodman in the second inning to give the Indians a 2-1 lead they would not surrender.
"We feel now that in the second round of (the conference season) we're working together better," said Schwechel. "We know what everything is all about now."
And Schwechel also liked what he saw out of his pitcher, who he has been catching since they were about 10 years old.
"His off-speed stuff was just terrific tonight," he said of Weber. "I just love working with him."
All told, the victory was the fourth in a row for the Indians and their seventh in their nine. In their last regular season home game, they finished at 12-6 in Greater Metro contests, one more win than they had last year with a much more experienced line-up, and 16-9 overall.
They will now be off until the GMC tourney back at Central, July 8-10.
Coach Pat Hansen almost wishes the Indians could keep playing.
"I think that was our best effort of the year," he said. "We put together one really nice inning (the four-run second). We got clutch hits and though Ty was not his best, he kept the ball down and he battled.
"We talk about competing, because these are the games you remember."
Meanwhile, Central fell to 13-3 in league games and 21-3 overall.
The Lancers are now in a flat-footed tie in the loss column with Oak Creek (a winner over West Allis Central tonight) and Marquette. The Lancers will host Oak Creek in a make-up of a game postponed from last night on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in what will essentially be the GMC title game.
Coach Jeff Bigler said the Lancers know what is at stake.
"It really comes down to one game for us (Oak Creek)," said Bigler. "Win and we get at least a share of the regular season title. It wasn't what we wanted at the start of the season (an outright league crown) but it is at least a share.
"And we're a confident group at home."
The Lancers should have been a confident bunch tonight with ace Elijah Goodman on the mound, especially after his offense scratched out a second inning run which got its start with a Luke Sommerfeld infield single which Weber exacerbated with a throwing error that put Sommerfeld at second.
A ground out and a wild pitch brought Sommerfeld home and Central had the lead.
But it was short-lived.
Goodman, who paces a powerful staff, had trouble with his location this night and the Indians made him pay. Tommy Wolf started the second with a double and after a walk to Lukas Kell, Schwechel ripped his game-changing two-bagger.
"It was a fastball right now the middle, I really couldn't believe it," he said.
He added that the Indians were not intimidated by Goodman or the Lancers.
"We knew pretty much what was coming and we've seen fast pitching before, when we faced Sommerfeld (and lost 12-2 on June 13)," said Schwechel. "We definitely got going that inning."
Goodman, who threw 36 pitches that frame, continued to labor as Indian centerfielder Michael Bowe put down a perfect bunt which went for a hit. After a walk to Falls shortstop Zach Kornburger, the bases were loaded with none out.
The Indians didn't blow open the game at that point, but they did take advantage of the situation, as after a fielder's choice, Goodman walked Falls second baseman Derek Johnson to force in a run.
After that, Weber rocketed a line-drive that hit Goodman. Goodman recovered to get the out but a run scored. He would stay in the game.
Falls was up 4-1 at that point and was in firm control.
"It was unlike him not to have pinpoint control," said Bigler of Goodman. "He continued to work, but he just wasn't as sharp as he could have been. I was proud of him for battling though."
Goodman got one of the runs back in the third with an RBI double but then Weber struck out the last two batters in the frame to end the threat.
The key play after that came in the fourth. Central's Josh Peltier singled with one out and then Ben Gebhard singled right after him. The Indians didn't get the ball in as quickly as they could have and Gebhard tried to stretch his hit into a double.
But an 8-5-4 relay was completed as Johnson slapped the tag on the hustling Gebhard just before he got to the second base bag.
Instead of second and third with one out, the Lancers had a man on third with two out. Another Weber strikeout ended the threat.
Both coaches agreed it was the play of the game.
"We thought he was in," said Bigler, "but whether or not we thought we were on the wrong side of a few calls we didn't do quite do enough tonight."
"To go from second and third with one out to just a runner on third with two out was just huge," said Hansen.
Weber made sure of that, as he put down eight in a row, including five flyballs in a row at one point, all three to Bowe in the fifth.
Josh Zahn hit an RBI double in the fourth to provide Falls with an insurance run, and a one-out single in the seventh by Central's Gebhard was rendered harmless by a Weber strikeout and a dandy catch in short right by Johnson.
Matt Ausloos relieved Goodman in the fifth and pitched an effective 2 2/3 innings of relief with two strikeouts for Central.
But it was not the Lancers' night.
"We had some quality swings, but they weren't enough," said Bigler.
Hansen praised the work of Bowe in center and of Johnson and Kornburger. Overall, he was very happy with the defense as Weber's throwing error in the first was the only miscue of the evening.
"We definitely made the plays tonight," Hansen said. "...Absolutely this was a big one. All the positives we can take out of this. Now we know we can beat anybody right now.
"From the standpoint of on any day if we do the things we're supposed we can beat anyone. We've beaten Marquette, Oak Creek and now Central. No one swept us this year."
And it's looking like no one will.
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