In the eyes of first-year Wauwatosa East baseball coach Brian Karas, the improvements were incremental for the 9-20 Red Raiders this year.
"Though we had the same number of overall wins as last year, we did double our conference wins," he said, "and our run differential was down by around 40 runs. I see those as big positives, a move in the right direction."
East finished up its season with a tough 7-1 WIAA regional semifinal loss to Greater Metro Conference rival Sussex Hamilton.
"It was a transition year," said Karas. "We're trying to let go of all the bad things that have happened (to the program) in the last four-five years and get the team back to where it used to be (a traditional contender)."
What helped in the improvement this year, said Karas, was an improved team spirit.
"I thought we had great chemistry and senior leadership," he said. "We all know it's a little different every year, but there were no cliques or groups set apart this year. It felt like a family and that was a great thing. It made it easy to coach."
Awards for the Red Raiders went to senior Riley Poe as offensive MVP. He hit .382 from the clean-up spot as a catcher, third baseman and first baseman and earned second-team All-GMC honors. Offensively, he got help from junior utility player Ben Carpenter, who hit .387 and was another second-team All-Conference selection on the infield after leading the team in extra-base hits.
Junior outfielder Steffen Uhrich was named most improved for the season after hitting .340 in GMC play for the season. Karas said Uhrich's defense improved dramatically too, as he committed only one error all season.
The pitching MVP was senior Bryce Kratzer who had three of the team's nine wins and recorded a solid ERA of 3.61. His victories came against Marquette, Muskego and Sussex Hamilton.
The defensive MVP was senior Colin Trautschold as his versatility allowed him to play second, third, shortstop and also pitch.
"And he was solid defensively all day," said Karas, "and that's saying a lot on our field (Breitlow). It's not an easy job there."
Karas has reason for encouragement next year as one other positive was that the team was able to keep solid numbers all season, including on both the improving junior varsity and freshmen squads.
"We've had chronic problems in the past, but top to bottom we kept kids involved," said Karas. "That's a good sign. Nobody stopped working."
Other seniors aside from Poe, Kratzer and Trautschold included Bobby Russ, Max Siebert, Zach Adams, and Tyler Leising. Poe (3.967 GPA) and Leising (3.717 GPA) earned team All-Academic honors.
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