There was a time in which the Wauwatosa East baseball program found itself consistently among the best teams in the Milwaukee area.
But for the past decade, the Red Raiders have struggled to compete in the Greater Metro Conference.
That changed his past season, as Wauwatosa East won numerous big games to finish 16-16 overall and 9-9 in the Greater Metro, its best marks since 2006.
"Our season helped to put our program back on the map," Wauwatosa East interim head coach Pete Schwichtenberg said. "While we had sights to make an even deeper run into the playoffs, they were able to accomplish almost every team goal that they set out to reach. Getting to .500 and finishing in the upper half of the conference was huge and something that has not happened in a long time."
Not phased by early change
The Red Raiders were dealt a dose of adversity to overcome early on, as head coach Brian Karas resigned June 10 due to personal reasons.
Schwichtenberg and Beau Schur were named co-interim head coaches, with Schwichtenberg handling game situations.
Wauwatosa East took off shortly thereafter, as the Red Raiders won four straight games from June 13-16, including a 3-0 win over conference champion and state semifinalist Oak Creek.
"No matter who was on the other side of the diamond, everyone believed that if we played our game, we could be in any game at the end," Schwichtenberg said. "The chemistry of this team was outstanding as the kids showed heart, energy and battled throughout every game, win or lose."
After finishing in a tie for sixth in the Greater Metro with Brookfield East, the Red Raiders were matched up with third-seeded Menomonee Falls in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Trailing 4-2 after five innings on July 5, Wauwatosa East scored three in the sixth and one in the seventh to upset an Indian team that went on to win the state championship.
Marquette knocked Wauwatosa East out of the conference tournament in the semifinals the following day.
Seeded sixth in the Brookfield Central sectional, the Red Raiders came away with a 3-1 win over rival Wauwatosa West in the WIAA regional semifinal July 12 for the program's first playoff win since 2007.
Third-seeded Waukesha North ended Wauwatosa East's season with a 7-2 win in a regional final on July 15.
Senior shortstop Spencer Michaelis and sophomore pitcher Jeff Mason earned second-team All-Greater Metro honors. Senior infielder Sean Denny and senior outfielder Dan Scallon were honorable mention selections.
Michaelis hit .409 with nine doubles, a triple and 23 RBIs. He also shined as Wauwatosa East's ace on the mound, going 5-3 with a 1.94 ERA in 50⅓ innings.
The Wisconsin Lutheran College commit threw a three-hitter in the Red Raiders' 3-0 victory over Oak Creek, beat Menomonee Falls in the Greater Metro tournament and pitched a complete game in the playoff win over Wauwatosa West.
"He played great defense all year, making tough plays look easy, and kept us in every game he pitched on the mound," Schwichtenberg said. "He also served much of the year as a the clean-up hitter in our lineup, and his leadership was like having another coach in the dugout."
Denny (.371) will play at the collegiate level at Marian University, and Scallon (.296) will play at the University of St. Thomas.
"Dan Scallon was our center fielder who spent his second season in the outfield," Schwichtenberg said. "He not only used his speed and power in the middle of our lineup but continued to show why he is one of the best defensive center fielders in the conference.
"Sean Denny played third and pitched for us this season. He again was a steady bat at the top of the lineup and a leader on and off the field."
In addition to Michaelis, Denny and Scallon, the Red Raiders will lose Mike Lockhart, Konner Szhor and Sean Murphy to graduation.
By reaching the .500 mark in 2016, Wauwatosa East set its program up for future success.
Five offensive starters return for the Red Raiders. Mason, who went 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA, will be back to anchor a pitching staff that also brings back Isaac Martin and Aaron Plaisted.
Whether Schwichtenberg and Schur return next season remains to be seen. The school posted the job and was expected to hold interviews in August.
"Our seniors will be greatly missed, but the team is in great shape heading into next season," Schwichtenberg said. "We have a large part of our rotation in place and five bats in our lineup that will be back for next year. There is a lot to look forward to as we hope to continue to grow as a program."