Why not go 75 miles for a border rivalry?

Falls and GT softball teams hyped for state

June 10, 2014

Germantown softball co-coach Kurt Raguse's brother said it best about the impending Thursday, June 12 3:30 p.m. Menomonee Falls-Germantown WIAA state quarterfinal tournament game in Madison.

"He said, 'Just think, you're going 75 miles to play a team in your backyard; what a waste of fuel!'" chuckled the happy Raguse after his team beat Brookfield Central, 1-0, in a WIAA sectional final June 5 to advance to state for the third-straight year (see separate story).

But Raguse, like Falls coach Lou Sanicola, is just pleased as punch to have a game of this magnitude no matter what the distance traveled, even if it is to the Goodman Diamond on the UW-Madison campus. He's happy and a little bit stunned the Warhawks were able to make this trip.

"We're just so young at so many key spots," Raguse said, "but it's why we played the schedule that we did. We had a bunch of tough games early, and that helped us."

Included in that mix was a 12-2 loss in the Indians' second game of the year and the Warhawks' first.

The difference between now and then for the 20-8 Warhawks?

"Try everything," Raguse said. "... I think we played both freshmen, and I know we had two sophomores in the outfield. But everything in our game has changed in that time. They've grown up. Everyone, including the freshmen, have stepped up their game."

But so have the Indians (24-4), as the Greater Metro Conference champions are advancing to state for the second-straight year after a 2-1 win over Watertown in their June 5 sectional final.

"The kids are really organized now," Sanicola said. "Now they're telling me what they want to do and where they want to go and where they want to eat (in Madison). They're ready to go."

Let's face it, everybody in the area wants to see this game,. It's two of the best teams in the state with very strong youth programs fueling years of success on both sides. When not competing against each other in high school, these athletes frequently play together on the same teams in summer ball.

"Number one, this is great for this part of the state," Raguse said. "It definitely gives us a little respect, and it is a tense rivalry. I also coach some of these Falls kids in the summer. I was at a summer practice yesterday (Saturday), and you could hear the banter going back and forth (about this Thursday's game)."

"We're actually very similar teams," Sanicola said. "Good pitching, some good hitters and real solid defense. We both invest a lot in our programs. I think they do a little more with that nice diamond complex (at Kennedy Middle School), but we both have pretty big followings (at the school)."

And though Falls is the arguably the deeper, more experienced team at this point and has that win over Germantown, no one is taking anything for granted.

"The interesting thing for us (as coaches) is to get the kids to forget the first game," Raguse said. "It was our first, their second. Lou has to do the same thing with his kids. He can't take anything for granted either.

"Let's face it, they're a good program, we're a good program; somebody is going to come home with bragging rights. We're both class programs that invest a lot in their teams. Legitimately, Lou (Sanicola) does a lot of the same things as Wendy (former coach Wolff-Kirt). They're always going to be competitors."

"It means a lot to these kids," Sanicola added. "There's nothing new here for these kids. Last Friday (the day after the sectional win), I was wishing that it was next Thursday already. I just couldn't concentrate or get a lot of work done."

Falls advanced to the state semifinals with an important win over Appleton East in last year's tourney. Germantown advanced to semifinals in 2012 with a huge win over softball empire Stevens Point before losing to the Panthers in last year's quarterfinals.

The winner will play the victor of Point and Kimberly in an 8 p.m. semifinal Friday, June 13, with the title game slated for approximately 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 14 (the day of Falls' graduation).

Germantown won a state title in 1996 back when the tourney was played at Frame Park in Waukesha, while Falls is looking for its first berth in the finals.

Another interesting aspect to all this is that this scenario could be played out in another sport in another high-level matchup, for if the Falls and Germantown girls soccer teams win their respective WIAA sectional semifinal games Thursday, June 12, they would play each other in a sectional final Saturday, June 14, with a first state tournament berth on the line for both programs.

"The lead-up and anticipation for all of this is incredible," said Ryan Anderson, Falls athletic director. "I'm driving up to Madison on Thursday (for the softball game) and then coming right back to Quad Park (where the soccer team is playing DSHA)."

"The mutual respect is huge," said Raguse. "The kids just want to beat Falls, and they want to beat us.

"It's just that this game is on the biggest stage."

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