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Local baseball teams felt highs, lows

Panthers, Falcons contended for division

July 24, 2012

Franklin - In the 2012 season, the Franklin, Greendale and Whitnall baseball teams all experienced ups and downs.

They all still managed to post double digits in victories, however, as the Sabers finished with 19 triumphs, Greendale with 17 and Whitnall with 15.

Along the way, they all had some notable victories and some fine individual performances.

Here is a brief summary of their respective seasons:

Franklin

Pitching was the bellwether of the Sabers (19-13), who rung up a team earned-run average of 2.58 with 217 strikeouts in 209 innings.

The leader was junior Evan Kruczynski, who notched an ERA of 1.97 and an opponents' batting average of .139. He struck out 73 and walked 24 in 46 innings.

His record was only 4-4, but in his first three losses, Franklin tallied a total of three runs for him.

Junior Tyler Gentz had an ERA of 1.90, senior Matt Busalacchi 3.07 and senior Kyle Hoffmann 1.73.

"Our pitching was outstanding," head coach Jim Hughes said. "It was clearly our strength."

Hitting, on the other hand, was less of a given this season. The Sabers were not consistent in putting up runs, and their home run total of 17 was less than half of their 38 in 2011.

"We had a lack of clutch hitting," Hughes said. "We would get people on (base), but we didn't move them or get them in."

Franklin lost to South Milwaukee in a WIAA regional title game largely because it allowed five unearned runs in one inning, but Hughes noted that the Sabers put 16 runners on base but only scored four runs.

Senior Collin Bertram hit .402, belted seven home runs and drove in a team-high 25 runs. Senior Jake Penegor hit .359 with 22 RBIs, but no one else had more than 16 RBIs.

Penegor, Hoffmann, Busalacchi and Bertram are the only seniors on the roster, so Hughes has a good deal of experienced talent for next season.

Whitnall

Despite never playing a home game due to construction, the Falcons had a solid season at 15-11, including 10-7 in the Woodland Black Division, tied for third with Greendale.

"The kids had a great attitude and work ethic," first-year head coach Ben Krey said. "I can't say enough about the way they made me feel welcome. We had no home field, but no one complained. That says a lot about the character of the kids."

Whitnall swept division champion New Berlin Eisenhower and runnerup Wauwatosa West early in the season to put itself in the race but stumbled down the stretch a bit.

"For a while, the division title was ours to grab," Krey said. "We had our shot."

Junior Sam Mentkowski batted .443, followed by junior Brent Sluka at .394, senior Ian Ray at .333 and junior Josh Serio at .324. Serio paced the team in RBIs with 18 and senior Luke Mentkowski added 17.

Serio was also the ace of the staff with a 5-2 record and 0.94 ERA. Ray and Sam Mentkowski also posted ERAs of 2.00 or less.

The Falcons bid farewell to six seniors in Luke Mentkowski, Ray, Ryan Slattery, Ian Hushek, Bill Weber and Jeff Schalla.

Greendale

The Panthers started out red hot and remained in first place in the Woodland Conference Black Division for a good portion of the campaign, but slipped toward the end, winding up at 10-7, good for a third-place tie.

Still, they captured a WIAA regional championship by downing Whitnall, and even though they lost to eventual champion Oak Creek in a sectional, head coach Brian Johnsen figures the experience will help his young team.

Greendale has just two seniors on the roster, Kyle Senft, who was one of the top run-producers; and Nate Van Ells, who was one of the better pitchers, going 5-2 with a 2.86 earned-run average.

One of the younger players, sophomore Zach Henderson, had a big year, batting .345 with 22 extra-base hits, including three home runs, and 39 RBIs.

"That has to be close to the top in the area," said Johnsen of Henderson's RBI total.

Johnsen is hoping that Henderson, along with players like junior Justin Povlick, freshman Zack Miller, sophomore Mitchell Brees, sophomore Ben Moore, junior Thomas Schuerman and junior Joe Grabowski, will help propel the Panthers toward another regional crown next season.

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