Michael Vahovick anticipated the New Berlin Eisenhower baseball team taking a step forward in 2016. Instead, the Lions finished with a 16-15 record for the second consecutive season.
While Eisenhower didn't take a significant step forward, there still were plenty of positives to take into a future that looks bright, including sweeping rival New Berlin West, making the Woodland Conference tournament and hosting a WIAA regional game.
"I had very high expectations for the team this season, and I put a lot of extra pressure on myself in the process," Vahovick said. "In doing so, I also put excessive undo pressure on my players, and we all had a hard time getting over that. I forgot as a coach that this game is meant to be fun. I failed in that department, and it translated on the field.
"It is my desire and goal to return the fun to baseball next season."
The Lions were a streaky team in 2016, as they had six winning or losing streaks of at least three games.
Eisenhower lost its first three games of the season before winning four of five to move to .500. Beginning May 31, wins and losses came in threes. The Lions won three straight from May 31 to June 4, lost three in a row from June 6-8 and then won three consecutive games from June 9-14.
Consecutive losses to Wauwatosa West on June 20-21 took Eisenhower out of contention in the Woodland West, but that didn't mean the Lions didn't have an impact on the division race. With rival New Berlin West needing a sweep to earn a share of the Woodland West crown, Eisenhower played spoiler by taking both games from its rival.
After failing to qualify for the Woodland Conference tournament in 2015, Eisenhower was the third seed from the West this season. South Milwaukee rallied late to beat the Lions, 6-4, in the quarterfinals, but Eisenhower bounced back to beat Whitnall and Cudahy to take fifth.
As the eighth seed in the South Milwaukee sectional, Eisenhower hosted ninth-seeded Cudahy in a regional semifinal. The Packers rallied to tie the game in the seventh inning and eventually pulled out a 4-2 win in eight innings.
Joey Scaffidi, who recently committed to play at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was named second-team All-State by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association. The junior outfielder was also first-team All-Woodland. Bryce Wesling was honorable mention All-State as an outfielder and first-team All-Woodland West as a utility player.
Senior infielder Trent Kelly made the first-team All-Woodland West team, while sophomore utility player Boden Saikie was second-team All-Woodland West.
Wesling was named team MVP and offensive MVP by the coaching staff. Saikie was the pitcher of the year and senior Gavin Beacom the defensive player of the year.
In addition to Kelly and Beacom, Ryan Potts and Austin Stuckart are graduating. Steven Zaborowski was Eisenhower's fifth senior. Potts will continue his baseball career at the College of Lake County, and Stuckart will play at Northland College.
While Eisenhower will have to replace four starters, the Lions will be one of five teams to return multiple All-State selections next season in Scaffidi and Wesling.
"I'm very excited about next season; we will have a very good nucleus returning and with that a lot of expectations to work towards accomplishing," Vahovick said. "We have a lot of talent returning and also coming up from the lower levels. Baseball at Eisenhower will make some noise next season."