Last season, the Menomonee Falls baseball team got hot late and did all the little things right to win both the Greater Metro Conference and WIAA state tournament titles.
On July 5, in the quarterfinals of the Greater Metro Conference Tournament, a surging Wauwatosa East team did all the little things and got a bulldog performance from ace Spencer Michaelis to upset the third-seeded Indians, 6-4.
In doing so, the Red Raiders and Michaelis avenged a 4-2 regular-season defeat to the Indians on June 28. Wauwatosa East coach Pete Schwichtenberg said Michaelis was anxious to get back on the mound.
'He's kept us in every game he's pitched this season,' Schwichtenberg said. 'Every time he's out there, we feel we can win. Even when he gets knocked around a little bit, he wants the ball all the time.
'He's the biggest competitor in the world.'
The victory improved the Red Raiders to 14-13, a record Schwichtenberg said the team 'hasn't seen in a long while,' and advanced them to the GMC semifinal against Marquette.
Meanwhile, Falls coach Pat Hansen wants the Indians (17-10), who have now lost two in a row, to find a way to get back on track.
Little things, like an error on a pickoff move that led directly to an East run in the fourth and an ill-advised attempt to take two bases on a passed ball that led to the third out of the fifth inning, were critical in the defeat.
'It goes back to something we were talking about at the start of the season,' he said. 'Untimely mistakes. That was the big thing. You hope they don't happen at big times, but they did.'
Such as in the sixth inning. Falls was nursing a 4-2 lead behind starter and eventual loser Logan Roble, but Ricky Serrano led off the frame with a single, and then Brian Denny doubled him home to make it 4-3.
After a line-out, Blake Kratzer singled to put runners on the corners. Hansen then replaced Roble with Zach Kornburger, but his first pitch was slapped for a hard RBI single by East's Sam Rutkiewicz to tie the score.
After a fly out to center, Dan Scallon worked the count and then poked a single to left-center for the go-ahead run. Rutkiewicz was thrown out trying to go first to third on the hit, but the Red Raiders had the lead at 5-4.
That's when Michaelis, who had been tagged for all four Indian runs in the fourth on five hits, picked up his second wind.
He gave up a bad hop single but then got a strike out and a ground out to end a sixth-inning threat.
In the seventh, Denny came up big again with a two-out RBI single to score Michaelis with a big insurance run.
In the bottom of the seventh, Michaelis gave up a two-out walk but got Falls' best hitter, Nick Gile, to fly out to right to end the game.
'You have to give credit to the kid,' said Hansen of Michaelis. 'He came back and threw strikes.'
'We have about three games before the start of the (WIAA) tourney,' Hansen added. 'Three games to get back on track. I feel this team can make a long tournament run, but it all depends on how we approach things.
'A game like this is such a letdown. We can't let it snowball.'
Falls got a two-run single from Tommy Howard in the fourth that was followed a couple of batters later by a run-scoring hit from Jerin Frey.
Meanwhile, East, which has won three games in a row, would like to maintain its momentum.
'There were times in the last few years where we would get down and we would stay down,' Schwichtenberg said, 'but right now, there's no one in that dugout that doesn't believe we can come back in any game we're in.'
The Red Raiders came up with 14 hits, including three each from Denny and Serrano and two each from Michaelis, Scallon and Kratzer. Michaelis gave up seven hits to go along with four strikeouts and three walks.
Schwichtenberg believes a sense of team unity can carry the Red Raiders far.
'This is the best chemistry I've seen in a high school team in a long time,' he said.