Greenfield - After a tough start to the 2012 season, with a pair of one-run extra-inning defeats, the Whitnall baseball team is starting to hit its stride.
The Falcons won a pair of Woodland Conference games last week, downing St. Francis, 9-5, on June 6 and Wauwatosa West, 6-3, on June 5 to come into this week at 3-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference, trailing co-leaders Greendale and New Berlin Eisenhower (3-0).
"The boys have been playing competitive baseball so far this season," said new head coach Ben Krey. "We lost our first two games to Brookfield East (1-0) and West Bend West (9-8). (We) had opportunities to win both games but just could not capitalize."
Those setbacks were followed by a 10-5 Woodland loss to Cudahy on June 1.
"We came out flat and just could not come back, as they (the Packers) kept swinging hot bats," said Krey, who took over for Brian Johnsen when the latter accepted the head job at Greendale this season. "We also had a few mental errors that game."
Last week, though, the Falcons' fortunes changed with the dual Woodland triumphs.
Against Tosa West, senior Luke Mentkowski, junior Josh Serio and junior Zach Sutton each collected a pair of hits and drove in one run for the Falcons, who used a six-run third inning as a springboard.
Serio worked five innings on the mound, striking out six, to gain the victory.
"Josh Serio has been throwing incredibly well so far this season, allowing only one unearned run in three starts with 26 strikeouts," Krey said. "The rest of our rotation will have to keep pounding the strike zone and developing more trust in the defense."
The coach said that defense has been solid so far.
"If we can make the routine plays and come up with a sensational play, we believe that we can play our game and win," he continued. "Our outfield play has been average to this point; we believe that this is an area where we can really improve."
The hitting has been spread out between a number of players, Krey said.
"(Senior) Ian Ray, Luke Mentkowski, (junior) Sam Mentkowski and Serio have been pretty consistent, while Sutton is really driving the ball well right now and (junior) Brent Sluka has had clutch hits for us," Krey explained. "We are hoping a balanced approach at the plate leads to even more consistency and helps us execute when we need to drive in a run."
Road warriors in 2012
Like other Whitnall teams this year, the baseball squad does not have a home field due to the school's ongoing construction project. They are playing both ends of the Woodland's back-to-back sets on the opposing team's field, although they do get last at-bats in one of the games.
Krey said the team is taking this in stride, adopting the Willie Nelson philosophy.
"The team has embraced the 'on the road again' mentality," he said. "I am pretty sure we could get them on a bus anytime and they would just play hard and compete to win."
Whitnall played a two-game set with Greendale earlier this week (the Falcons won the first game, 7-2, on Monday bringing their overall record to 4-3), as the Panthers' Johnsen faced his old team.
"They are a good team," Johnsen said of the Falcons last week, "and we know they will compete hard."
The Falcons visit St. Thomas More at 5 p.m. Thursday, then have a big two-game set with New Berlin Eisenhower Monday and Tuesday, with both games at 5 p.m.
The other two area teams continued their struggles last week, with West Allis Central going 0-4 and Greenfield losing its two games.
West Allis Central
The Bulldogs were competitive in their first two games, falling to the two-time defending state champion Franklin Sabers, 5-3, on June 5 and to Marquette, 3-2, on June 4.
Michael Manlick pitched a solid seven innings against the Sabers, who won the game with two runs in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie. In the earlier game, Jason Alvarez allowed six hits in seven innings but took the loss when the Hilltoppers tallied runs in the final two frames.
After that, Central lost to Menomonee Falls, 13-2, on June 7 and Oak Creek, 12-1, on Friday night.
Brandon Burdick doubled and Kevin Gerovac had a hit and run batted in against Greater Metro Conference leader Falls. Manlick managed one hit in the Oak Creek contest for Central, which had one victory going into this week.
The Hustlin' Hawks lost to West Bend East, 8-3, on June 6 and Wauwatosa East, 4-3, on June 8 in a pair of non-conference games.
Against West Bend, Tyler Haim collected three hits and a run batted in, and in the Wauwatosa game, Kyle Holmes drove in two runs and Nick Jablonski had two hits. Richard Thomas gave up six hits and struck out seven, but took the loss.
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