Back on June 13, Brookfield Central pitcher Luke Sommerfeld and the Lancer bats dominated an inexperienced Menomonee Falls baseball team that was still trying to figure things out by a 12-2 count.
What a difference a month makes.
On Thursday, with the same line-up they had in that June contest, the Indians got off to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and never trailed, beating Sommerfeld and the Lancers by a 7-5 count in the Greater Metro Conference Tournament third place game.
"This is huge for our confidence," said Indian coach Pat Hansen. "The last time we played them at their place (the June 13 game), they just beat us up.
"...This shows we've come quite a long ways."
But the two teams are going in different directions.
The Indians, who lost a tough last inning 5-4 decision to eventual tournament champion Marquette the night before, have won eight out of their last 10 and are currently 18-10 with their regular season closer against Waukesha South at UW-Whitewater slated for 2 p.m. Friday.
Meanwhile, Central, which the Falls beat 5-2, at Trenary Field on July 1, has fallen on hard times. The Lancers were in control of the league two weeks ago at 21-1, but have lost five of their last six (22-6 overall).
The Indians took advantage of that momentum switch right away on Thursday. Pitcher and leadoff hitter Michael Bowe got on through a Sommerfeld walk and then proceeded to steal both second and third base.
On the latter attempt, the catcher's throw to third went high and Bowe was able to score easily.
"Michael brings a lot of energy to the field," said Hansen of Bowe.
After a strikeout, both Ty Weber and Daniel Dahlke singled. Tommy Wolf followed that with an RBI double and Dahlke came home with the third run of the inning on a Sommerfeld wild pitch.
Bowe (five innings pitched, three walks and three strikeouts) made the lead stand-up.
Two Lancer runners got on in the first but a strikeout closed the threat, In the second, Bowe started a 1-6-3 doubleplay to close out another Lancer offering.
Falls added to its cushion in the fourth, as Central pitchers Sommerfeld and Zach Schmidt combined for five walks in the frame, contributing to four Falls runs. The two would combine for eight walks total on the day.
Lukas Kell brought in one of the runs on a fielder's choice and Boyd Sansone's infield single plated another as the advantage went to 7-0.
Falls' defense helped Bowe again in the fourth as second baseman Derek Johnson, who knocked in the winning run in the July 8 tourney quarterfinal win over West Allis Hale, dove to his left to snag a sinking linedrive and then threw to the first baseman Weber to double off the lingering Lancer runner.
Central finally nicked Bowe for a run in the fifth and a Lancer doubleplay in the sixth erased a two-on Falls threat.
The Lancer bats, which have been very quiet over the last few weeks, finally chased Bowe in the sixth as Central scored four runs on four hits with one crucial error off Bowe and reliever Adam Vechart.
The tieing run was at the plate with a runner at second when Vechart finally got the last out of the inning.
Falls had a chance at adding an insurance run in the top of the seventh but Schmidt got Bowe to strike out to end the inning.
With what Hansen called a playoff atmosphere now in force in the seventh, Vechart responded by getting three successive groundball outs to secure the win.
"That was another thing I was proud of," said Hansen. "The sixth inning got pretty ugly for us and in the seventh inning, the Central dugout was pretty loud and excited, but we made the plays when we needed them.
"It was a good playoff atmophere heading into the (WIAA) tourney."
Riley Richarz and Riley Keays had two hits apiece for Central while Falls was led by Dahlke and Weber who had two hits and two runs scored apiece while Wolf had two hits and two RBI.
Falls will open WIAA tournament play as the sixth seed in the WIAA Whitefish Bay sectional. The Indians will host 11th seeded Port Washington in a Tuesday, July 15 regional semifinal at Trenary at 5:30 p.m.
If they win, they wll advance to a regional final on Friday, July 18 likely at third-seeded Grafton. Sectional play is slated for Monday, July 21 at Bay's Cahill Field.
Meanwhile, despite their stumbles, the Lancers still earned the second seed in the Waukesha West sectional and will get a first round bye. They will host the winner of Kettle Moraine and Wauwatosa West in a regional final on July 18 with sectional play slated for July 21 back at West.
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