The two baseball programs at West Allis have taken their lumps all season, combining to go 15-38 in the regular season. The thing is, many of those losses have come against some of the state’s best competition within the confines of the Greater Metro Conference.
And boy, did that pay off in the playoffs.
West Allis Hale, seeded 12th, logged an 8-6 win over fifth-seeded Cudahy, and 11th-seeded West Allis Central registered an 8-0 win over No. 6 seed Whitnall in the opening round of the WIAA summer baseball postseason July 11. After a season full of close losses and setbacks against elite programs like Oak Creek and Franklin, the Huskies and Bulldogs had their moment to shine.
Both teams fell in the regional final two days later.
“We felt very confident coming in,” Central coach Dean Mlachnik said. “I think we play in the best conference in the state. We saw Oak Creek three times, Falls three times, Franklin, Brookfield Central, Brookfield East. There's a lot of good baseball teams in that conference. Every night, we have to come to battle. A lot of games we lost by one run in conference, we competed like crazy and we're young. I felt we started to play good baseball with our backs against the wall.”
The star of the show for Central was sophomore starting pitcher Tyler Drezek, who needed 83 pitches to navigate seven innings, allowing seven hits and one hit batsman with zero additional walks.
“He's pitched two complete games out of his last three, and he’s 3-0 in his last three games,” Mlachnik said. “Early on in the season, he was throwing a lot of balls and falling behind, 2-1, 3-1. Now he throws strikes early, gets ahead in the count and has great command of his pitches right now. He’s improved last year to this year. He thought he could throw it by anybody last year, and anybody can hit an 82-mile per hour fastball down the middle. He figured he had to work the corners a little bit and play games with people and have some fun.”
Central scored five runs in the second inning, which stood up until a three-run seventh put the game out of reach. But it was Central’s defense that really set the tone. Center fielder Kurt Mlachnik caught a Whitnall runner trying to move from second to third on a base hit, and the second out was recorded at the plate when another runner tried to bolt for home on a grounder to short. Jorden Rauch threw late to first base, but first baseman Jake Fierst threw home to catcher Mike Wilcox for an out.
“Those are two of the first outs of the game,” Mlachnik said. “I’m really proud of the way we played defensively.”
Wilcox also went 3 for 3 at the plate with a double and stole a base.
Hale rallies from huge early hole
West Allis Hale’s path to the regional final was much more arduous. The Huskies fell behind against Cudahy, 5-0, and it could have been much worse, but the team called on top pitcher Kaleb Kling with the bases loaded, one out and four runs already in. After allowing a single, Kling escaped further damage.
“He’s a guy who beat Whitnall last year in the regional, but his arm’s been sore all year,” Hale coach Paul Dooley said. “He’s been coming into his own the last week or so … early in the year, we would have given up a zillion runs right there, but he stopped their momentum. He only gave up three hits in 5 2/3 innings, and two of the hits he gave up in the fourth could have easily been errors.”
Meanwhile, Hale began its comeback in a hurry, scoring six runs in the third. With the bases loaded and nobody out, senior captain third baseman Tyler O’Brien drove in a run with a single, and junior outfielder Damien Wilkins doubled down the left field line. Walker White added an RBI single, and Hale stole a go-ahead run when a throw to catch a stealing baserunner at second opened the window for another runner to score from third.
“The first 20 games of the year, that wouldn't have happened,” Dooley said. “I have 10 seniors and it just seems like any way we could lose, we would lose. We played a lot of close baseball games for the last two weeks.”
Cudahy re-tied the score at 6-6 in the fourth after loading the bases with no outs. But again, the rally was mitigated. Michael Schmidt initiated a 6-4-3 double play at short stop, and Kling induced an inning-ending groundout.
“As we were riding home on the bus, we were talking about the difference between winning and not winning,” Dooley said. “The double play, we had another diving catch – we had three big defensive plays, and if we don’t make those plays, the game is totally different.”
Hale answered immediately in the fifth with the two go-ahead runs. Schmidt singled and scored on an error, and Joey DiTorrice knocked in another run. Kling made it through the sixth, and Sam Valona worked around a one-out walk to secure the seventh.
“We lost to Brookfield East, 3-2, but had bases loaded in the top of the seventh and got doubled off to lose the game,” Dooley said. “We lost to Brookfield Central on Thursday, 8-6, but had bases loaded in the seventh. Tosa East was a walkoff Tuesday. They’ve just been better games, and it all goes back to playing in the Greater Metro. We’re not afraid of teams because we’ve seen teams just as good or better every day.”
Season ends in final
West Allis Central fell to No. 3 seed Greendale in the regional final, 6-1. Griffin Doersching homered twice for Greendale. Wilcox drove in the lone run for the Bulldogs.
West Allis Hale fell to Muskego, 8-0. It was a very different game most of the afternoon, with Muskego scoring in the first and taking a 1-0 lead into the sixth, where the Warriors added seven runs.
Greenfield falls to Franklin
Kyle Jablonski twirled a complete game as Greenfield’s baseball team advanced past South Milwaukee in the WIAA summer baseball opener July 11, 4-1.
The Hustlin’ Hawks season came to an end at the hands of second-seeded Franklin the following day, 11-0. The Sabers eventually qualified for the state tournament.
Jablonski needed only 80 pitches to navigate seven innings against the rockets, permitting one run on three hits with seven strikeouts at one walks.
Rudy Rodriguez led the offensive charge with three of his team’s seven hits, including a double, and three RBIs. Adam Lenzke drove in another run, and both Jablonski and Drew Kassel had hits, as well.
Lenzke had his team’s lone hit against Franklin in a five-inning setback against the Sabers.