Under normal circumstances, most baseball coaches would be gleeful over a 20-13 record after substantial graduation losses from back-to-back conference championship efforts.
But Nicolet's Dick Sykes can't help but think 'what if?' about a season of missed opportunities and frustrating defeats.
"We just didn't play with enough passion," Sykes said. "Our seniors sometimes came to play and sometimes didn't. We just lacked intangibles. We lacked leadership."
And Sykes thought that might be a problem after 2006 All-State and CNI All-Suburban Player of the Year Sam Sivilotti graduated and took his substantial skills to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"We knew we'd miss his talent, but I was more concerned about who would step into the void and take over as a leader," Sykes said.
The senior group that included Jeremy Wall, Phil Kramsky, Jake Majeski, Nick Vigder, Andy Rinehart and Elan Rasansky did its best, and the season did have some moments like a "10-run rule" thrashing of eventual WIAA state tournament qualifier Homestead early in the season and nice rallies against the likes of Port Washington and Greendale. But too often there were games like the blowout loss to GMC South Division co-champion Franklin and the disappointing season-ending WIAA regional final loss to Brown Deer that saw the Knights commit eight errors.
"In the long run, we gave teams too many opportunities," Sykes said.
Nicolet lost seven one-run games this season, but Sykes was more concerned about the fact that the Knights lost by 10 or more runs four times this summer and that the three through six batters in the order hit an anemic .135 with runners in scoring position. (Oddly enough, the seven, eight, nine and one spots in the order hit .400 with runners in scoring position).
The catcher Kramsky was a bright spot as he led Nicolet with a .476 batting average that included five home runs and 33 RBI. More so, he picked off 17 runners this season, including 12 at second. He threw out North Shore Conference Player of the Year Matt Schilter of state champion West Bend West on attempted steals three times.
Kramsky won the team's Dick Huxtable Award for perseverance. He will attend New York City area Dominican College, which is part of a strong NCAA Division 2 conference.
"We won 20 games and I think he claimed about 10 himself," Sykes said.
Sykes has reason for encouragement next year, even though West returns a great deal from its 34-1 powerhouse.
People like Pat Collis, Cory Katzbahn, Christian Guffy, Ben Knight (.345 batting average), Richie Lyon, James Sweeney, Mike Daniels, Noah Rotter, Carsten Haas and freshman shortstop Robbie Mayer picked up valuable experience.
The infield that included Mayer, Wall and Knight turned 21 double plays this season.
Further, the very talented freshmen group went 21-1 and Sykes said several of those players will be brought up to varsity next summer.
"Next year we'll be very green, but we'll have more guys who love baseball," Sykes said. "Consistency and defense will be keys to our success."
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