Early on, the New Berlin West baseball team was struggling to get on track.
Picked to finish fifth in the six-team Woodland West, the Vikings were 3-5 on June 3 following consecutive losses to Wauwatosa West and Whitnall. But starting with a two-game sweep of Pius XI Catholic, New Berlin West found its identity as a resilient, tough-minded team that could win close games.
The Vikings won 16 of their last 21 games and seven of their last eight, winning the Woodland Conference tournament in the process. New Berlin West beat Greenfield in a WIAA regional semifinal before falling 3-2 to Greendale in a regional final to finish at 19-10.
'Understandably with a young group, we didn't start out great,' New Berlin West coach Tom Farina said. 'We were hovering a couple of games under .500. We got to .500, and all of a sudden things clicked for them as a group. Once things clicked for them as a group, it was very exciting. Nineteen wins is not something to sneeze at. We had a lot of big wins and a couple of tough losses. That's all part of the growing process. I'm very proud of our team.'
Six all-conference selections
Offensively, New Berlin West was led by freshman first baseman Nick Paget and junior catcher Nate Egofske, as both were first-team All-Woodland selections.
Egofske hit .466 with 14 doubles, four triples and 32 RBIs. He struck out just seven times all season and carried an on-base percentage of .542. Behind the plate, Egofske threw out 14 of 23 attempted base stealers.
'He had a big, big season offensively and defensively for us,' Farina said.
Paget hit .457 with 12 doubles, three triples, two home runs and a team-best 33 RBIs. The freshman had three walk-off hits and a game-tying, two-out home run in the seventh inning for the Vikings.
Senior right-hander Corey Liebherr was named second-team All-Woodland West after tying for the team lead with four wins and leading the Vikings with 602/3 innings. He pitched seven or more innings in six of his nine outings, including going nine innings in extra-innings wins over Pius XI Catholic on June 7 and Cudahy on July 5.
Senior infielder Trevor Duran and senior outfielder Oscar DelValle were second-team All-Woodland West selections, while senior infielder Justice Dodd was honorable mention All-Woodland West.
Two of New Berlin West's five losses over the final two months of the season came against rival New Berlin Eisenhower with a division title on the line. The Vikings entered their final two regular-season division games tied with Greendale atop the Woodland West.
Eisenhower swept West, while Greendale swept Wauwatosa West, giving the Panthers the division crown.
The Vikings didn't let the disappointment of letting the division title slip away linger, as they responded by beating Cudahy, South Milwaukee and Greendale to win the Woodland Conference tournament just a week later.
Battles with Greendale
After beating Greenfield to start the playoffs, New Berlin West found itself pitted against a familiar foe in the regional championship. The Panthers and Vikings had already played three one-run contests, with the two teams splitting a pair of games in the regular season and New Berlin West winning, 3-2, in the Woodland Conference tournament title game.
The regional final was another close affair, as Greendale scored a sixth-inning run to pull out a 3-2 win.
'All four of our games were identical,' Farina said. 'Neither one of us could beat the other one two times in a row. We kept trading wins and losses. Each one of us had a big win. We won to win the conference championship title, and they won to move on to the sectionals.'
In addition to Liebherr, Duran, DelValle and Dodd, the Vikings will lose senior pitcher Adam Fritz and senior outfielder Dan Western.
Although it loses six seniors, New Berlin West has a talented young core returning. Paget and Egofske were two of the best players in the Woodland Conference, while freshman Alex Redman and sophomore Will Bush had strong seasons on the mound and freshman Tyler Stoltenburg was the starting centerfielder.
'We do have a lot to look forward to,' Farina said. 'We have a lot of kids coming back. We're excited about what the future holds.'