In the 2012 season, the Wauwatosa West baseball team continued to make major strides.
The Trojans won 16 games overall, four more than the previous campaign and more than double their total of seven victories in the 2008-10 seasons combined.
They also came on strong at the end of the season to nearly claim a share of the Woodland Conference Black Division championship. They finished 12-5 in the division, just one game behind New Berlin Eisenhower (13-4).
'We were able to build upon the success of last season, when we won 12 games, 10 more than the year before,' head coach Chad Mateske said. 'We were able to minimize the number of big losses, we were within three runs in all but two or three games and we were able to pull out some close wins.
'We learned to be competitive and expect to be in every game until the last out.'
Three seniors lead way
Leading the charge were West's three seniors, Tyler Gross, Travis Hudson and Jacob Boudreaux.
'Our three seniors have helped shape the face of our evolving program,' Mateske said. 'They have seen the dark days of a few years back and they have been directly a part of the last two years that saw us win 28 games. The combination of this senior class and this junior class is a turning point for the program.'
Gross batted .422 with 23 runs batted in, while junior Austin Jones was at .364 with 17 RBIs, junior Mickey Morgan .359 with 19 RBIs and junior JJ Belknapp .327 with 11 RBIs.
'For one of the first times since I have been here, we had some kids who could hit the ball with confidence,' the coach continued. 'We understood the mental aspect of hitting better this year than we have ever before. They understood when to attack the ball, when to look to put it in play and how to execute hit and runs.
'We just really took huge leaps in the area of hitting. We still have more to do this offseason, but they really understood the concepts of hitting this year.'
The pitching staff was paced by Jones, who went 6-3 with a 2.42 earned-run average and 109 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings.
'Gross and Jones gave us a chance to win every game when they went out on the mound,' Mateske said. 'Those guys were ready to pitch when it was their turn, and we had eight kids ready to throw at various points of the season.'
Chemistry mixes in success
Mateske said every player made some contribution to the team, and that the chemistry and collective efforts were the main reasons behind the success.
He also praised the coaching staff and the parents for their support, along with the Junior Trojans program, which will contribute toward the team's future.
West's season ended on a down note with a 6-3 loss to Marquette in a WIAA regional contest.
'The kids expressed disappointment in the way we lost,' he said, 'going into the sixth with the lead and letting it slip away. The 10 kids that return are going to be hungry and motivated to elevate their game even further next year. Success breeds success.'
After not experiencing much success a few years ago, the Trojans seem poised to continue their upward trend in 2013.