West Allis - The lineup of this season's West Allis Hale softball team was the kind that could have used some sort of nickname, such as famous major league baseball monikers Murderer's Row, The Lumber Company or The Big Green Machine.
Short of that, the 2012 Huskies will simply be known as 17-game winners, WIAA Division 1 regional champions and Greater Metro Conference runners-up.
Hale finished 17-7 on the season and 11-3 in the GMC, just one game behind champion Menomonee Falls. The Huskies earned a split with the Indians but fell just short of repeating their co-championship with them.
"We feel that we had a very successful season," head coach Kay Nichols said. "We considered this year to be a rebuilding year and started four freshmen in our lineup. We ended up being regional champs, which for a rebuilding year is pretty amazing."
The key was their imposing lineup, which racked up 198 runs in those 24 games for an average of 8.25 per outing. Hale hit double digits in scoring 10 times this season.
The Huskies were led by the powerful one-two punch of junior Rachel Seefeldt, who hit .444 with 12 home runs and 44 runs batted in, and sophomore Sarah Mueller, who batted .486 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs.
Seefeldt was named the GMC Player of the Year and made first-team all-conference in the infield, while Mueller earned second-team honors as a pitcher.
Sussex Hamilton head coach Jim Lawinger, whose team lost twice to Hale during the regular season but upset the Huskies in WIAA sectional play last week, feels Seefeldt and Mueller are the two best hitters in the state.
"They had 22 home runs between them," Lawinger said, "and we had three for the year. Actually, most teams had three or four."
The Hale attack did not end there, though. Junior Jenny Schmidt hit .410 and drove in 23 runs to also earn second-team all-conference honors as a catcher, while freshman Tyler Jeschke batted .342 from the leadoff spot, scored 31 runs and stole 11 bases and junior Jessica Knurowski hit .323 and brought in 13 runs. Freshman Emily Navarette and sophomore Marissa Lehn each drove in 11 runs.
Mueller pitched every inning for the Huskies. She struggled with her control at times (129 walks) but also struck out 93 and fashioned a respectable earned-run average of 3.76. She also improved as the year went along and was solid in the postseason. The Chargers beat her in the sectional not with strong hitting, but with well-placed bunts and opportunistic baserunning.
Key loses after hot start
The Huskies started the season red hot but were shut down by Menomonee Falls pitcher Nikki Festge, 4-0, in late April in a battle for first in the GMC. They also lost to Brookfield East and dropped a tough 10-9 extra-inning decision to struggling Wauwatosa East.
"That was our low point of the year," Nichols said. "Had we won that game, we would have again tied Menomonee Falls for the championship. It was a game we should have won, but we had several errors and could not string together hits."
After that game, Nichols made some changes in her lineup and defensive alignment, and the Huskies responded, beating Falls, Hamilton and Brookfield East down the stretch to finish second.
In the regional, they routed Waukesha West and Hartland Arrowhead, avenging an early-season loss to the Warhawks, before falling to the Chargers, who went on to advance to the state tournament.
The best news for Hale is that there are only two seniors, Alyssa Urbanski and Sarah Sheard, who earned GMC Scholar-Athlete honors this season.
"We are looking forward to next year and the potential that this team possesses," Nichols said.
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