Rain and soggy fields had decimated the schedules of the Menomonee Falls and Germantown softball teams, soon to be regular rivals.
So on Friday, April 7, at Germantown's Kennedy Middle School softball complex, with the main varsity field still too soft to play after nearly non-stop rains from Monday through Thursday morning, the two teams easily agreed to take it over to the adjacent junior varsity field.
"I talked to Lou (Falls coach Sanicola) and I asked him if it was OK if we do that," said Warhawks coach Kurt Raguse, "and he said 'Whatever we have to do to play, let's do it.'"
And that turned out to be a good thing for the defending Greater Metro Conference co-champion Falls team, as the Indians took advantage of three Germantown errors in the second inning and got some clutch hits to score five runs en route to a 7-2 victory over the defending North Shore champion Warhawks.
"We just tried to employ the same gameplan as always," said Sanicola. "Solid defense, good pitching, and then try to manufacture some runs. This was exactly the kind of game we wanted. Why we're playing on this (JV) field. We wanted to to get it in and get the experience."
Falls, which has only gotten in two of its five scheduled games up until the Germantown game, is 3-1 overall after a split in a tournament in Greenfield on April 8, while the Warhawks, who have had nearly equal difficulties in getting games in, fell to 0-2.
"A lot of those runs were unearned," said Raguse. "We pick up the ball, we have a chance to win that game, but you give good teams, and Falls is a very good team, an opening like we did, they're going to take advantage of it and they did tonight."
The April 7 game, played in chilly but clear conditions, is a precursor to future high-level battles for the border rivals as Germantown will join the Greater Metro Conference next fall.
Falls has now won four regular-season games in a row against the Warhawks, though Germantown did beat the Falls in a much-remembered WIAA state quarterfinal rematch in 2014.
The Indians won this game on the strength of more timely hitting (11 hits to six for the Warhawks), fewer errors (one to four), and fewer walks (zero for senior Ciera Jones as compared to three for Germantown freshman Gia Szada).
All those trends combined in the pivotal second inning, when back-to-back infield errors by Germantown and then a walk loaded the bases with one out. That's when Falls junior outfielder Megan Jackson whistled a line drive down the third base line. Two runs scored easily and when the ball got by the Germantown outfielder, a third run scored. After a single and stolen base by speedy junior Lou Sciortino, the Indians muscled home two more runs, including an RBI by junior Cami Stigler.
Jackson said she had been taking a lot of good first-pitch strikes so she was bound and determined to go after the second strike she saw.
"It was a good one and I was able to put a nice swing on it," she said.
That allowed the veteran Jones, who beat Germantown in last season's border matchup, too, to settle in and pound the strike zone.
"I love pitching with the lead," she said. "There's a lot less to worry about and I can just throw strikes."
Jones would finish with nine strikeouts and no walks as she didn't allow the Warhawks to mount a serious threat. She struck out the side in the fourth.
Germantown scored solo runs in the second on an RBI groundout by senior Alissa Koenke and an RBI single from senior Amanda Williams in the sixth.
Szada settled down well after the second, allowing only four earned runs with three walks. Her triple also led to the Warhawks' first run in the second.
Raguse said the lack of steady outdoor practice time played a part in the Warhawks' defensive miscues.
"Balls don't have the same true hops outdoors as they do indoors," he said. "That's hard to simulate indoors. But this was still good for us to see. Lou (Sanicola) and I were talking before the game, we know this will be part of our main competition heading into next year. DSHA will be good but Falls and us will be battling again and again."
Falls was led by the top of its order as Sciortino had three hits and two runs scored, Jackson two hits and two RBIs and Poetzel two hits. Stigler had two RBIs while sophomore Brianna Rosenow also had two hits.
Jackson said it was just good to get outside for once and play. Falls will be on spring break next week, but Jones said the team will still put in hard work getting ready for the meat of its GMC schedule the week after that.
"We were actually missing some people (because they had already gone on break)," said Jones, "but we were able to adjust to that. We'll still try to get some really good practices in (next week) and then come back and play to the best of our ability."