Woodmore senior catcher Mike Fahle is getting back into form, which is a good sign for the Wildcats' baseball team.
Fahle, a second-team All-Suburban Lakes League player a year ago, when he hit .365, was hitting in the mid-.200s a couple weeks ago. After a 2-for-3 effort in a 6-0 victory over Lakota on Monday, Fahle's season average has soared to .333.
He leads the Wildcats (7-11, 2-4 SLL) in walks (16), on-base percentage (.552) and is third in stolen bases.
"He's starting to hit the ball real well now," first-year Woodmore coach Todd Bringman said. "We had him in the four-hole and some of our other hitters were struggling a little bit, and he doesn't get to see many good pitches. He's starting to roll now. He's hitting .545 in the last five games.
"He was pressing a little bit, worrying about his scholarship potential and he didn't want to ruin it. We had some talks to settle him down. We told him he's a senior captain on the Woodmore baseball team right now and not a college player."
Woodmore, which reached the regional semifinals last season, had lost six in a row before beating Lakota. For the Wildcats to turn things around, they'll need Fahle to stay hot at the plate.
The 6-0, 200-pound Fahle said he's figured it out.
"I was on my front foot too far (at the plate)," he said. "The position on my swing was messed up. I was going too early. I've been timing the pitchers up, finding their release point. Thank God I'm out of that slump. I think I was just putting too much pressure on myself. Now I go up to the plate and relax."
Fahle played third base and catcher his freshman year, but he has been the Wildcats' mainstay behind the plate the last three seasons. One of Fahle's best attributes, according to Bringman, is his work ethic.
"Mike is a big, strong kid and he has a very strong arm," the coach said. "He's just a hard-working kid. Nobody outworks him. He is a no-nonsense kid. We kind of split up calling pitches with certain pitchers. He calls quite a bit of the games because he's paid attention.
"We have a new pitching coach (Ron Taylor) this year who's doing a nice job. Ron mixes it up quite a bit and Michael is smart enough and savvy enough that he picks up what we want in certain situations. He's a super good kid."
Fahle said, "Coach Taylor feels that it's better for me to call pitches with the more experienced pitchers. With a younger guy, (Taylor) will most likely call the pitch. I like calling pitches. I've been doing it all through high school."
Fahle, who played on the Fremont American Legion Post 121 team last summer, should be used to making crucial calls. He was Woodmore's starting quarterback last fall.
What SLL baseball teams have come to realize is that Fahle doesn't fit the stereotype of a big, burly catcher who has no wheels on the base paths.
Fahle has 13 stolen bases this season, and has been caught only once. He had 12 steals in 12 attempts a year ago.
"It's nice to show that I can show some speed as a catcher," Fahle said. "It's just reading the pitcher. For a right-handed pitcher, once I see that left foot go up, I take off. A left-handed pitcher is a bit more tricky. Once it looks like they've committed to home plate, that's when I take off."
Fahle's versatility is on display this season in that he's been asked to pitch. In 16-plus innings Fahle, who hadn't pitched since Little League, has a 3-0 record and a 6.72 ERA. Sophomore Jake Zollinger catches when Fahle is on the mound.
Fahle said he has been looked at by several colleges, including Ohio Northern, Bluffton, and Tiffin University, but he plans to attend Bowling Green State University and major in business.
"I want to play there," Fahle said. "I'm not sure if they're going to offer me. I'm going to have to wait and see. I like the atmosphere at Bowling Green. It's just a nice place to live and I feel comfortable there."
For now, Fahle, who has a 3.2 GPA, will keep plugging away for Woodmore.
"We did have a goal of winning league, but that's a little out of reach," he said. "Our goal is to get to the regional semifinals. That's where we had our last game my freshman year and last year. We want to get past that point."