Whitefish Bay Now All-Suburban baseball choices Nick Lackney and Cole Stasiak have drawn elite comparisons and they are well-earned.
Lackney was the ace of a very deep pitching staff and Stasiak was the quarterback of the defense at shortstop and the catalyst of an over-achieving offense.
"Cole's season was just amazing," said Blue Duke Jay Wojcinski. "You look at the numbers and compare to the season Kevin (former MLB draft choice James) had and even to what Garrett did (all-state first baseman DeMuth), the numbers are right up there. He was one of the top three reasons we did what we did this season.
"And Nick, he just goes out there on the mound each year and gets the job done. This is is his third year on varsity and he is just getting more and more comfortable. Nothing ever bothers him. He has movement on his fastball, a good slider and he just has a bulldog mentality out there.
"Everytime he goes out there, we know we're getting his best."
Those two were primary reasons why the Blue Dukes earned their first-ever North Shore Conference title this year with a school-record mark of 27-6.
"This was a great season," said Stasiak, a first team WBCA All-State selection. "The conference title was the first goal on our list and we got it."
Stasiak took a remarkable leap forward this season, drawing comparisons to the 2007 Now Co-Player of the Year James and the power hitting DeMuth, who was the seige gun of the 2011 state semifinalist squad. Stasiak hit .460 with 31 runs scored, 52 hits, 35 RBIs, 13 doubles, an on-base percentage of .508 and a slugging mark of .628.
He started in baseball at age 5 in the Whitefish Bay Little League and, by seventh and eighth grade, was on the Wildcats traveling team, which included second-team all-state selection Elijah Goodman of state champion Brookfield Central.
Stasiak wasn't always a shortstop, as he saw himself as more of a true utility player, playing outfield, infield as well as pitcher. He was a shortstop his freshman and sophomore years and moved to second last season as the now-graduated Johnny Markwiese handled shortstop.
He was happy to get back to shortstop this season.
"I love it," he said . "I love being at the center of all the action."
He honed his skills playing ball year around, primarily in the fall with the Badgers BBA. He had a solid year for Bay last season but kept working and was pleased with the results.
"Junior year, my average was OK," he said, "but everything was a single. I started working out more in the fall and spring and this year I had more power (two home runs). There was a lot of time in the (batting) cage."
He and first baseman Cal Gavic (also above .400 for the season), were the heart of the offense, but Stasiak, who also was part of that deep pitching staff, knew it was the pitching and defense that really carried the Blue Dukes this season.
Stasiak was 3-1 on the hill with an impressive 1.27 ERA, but it was Lackney who led the way there as he was 8-1 with a 1.04 ERA and an impressive 82-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He grew up in the Madison area and moved to the Bay area with his family around eighth grade. He played Babe Ruth League ball as well as Little League in Madison.
The tall and lanky hard thrower (mid 80s-fastball) said he has evolved as a baseball player.
"When I was younger, I used to be more of a big power hitter," he said. "Now I'm much more of a pitcher than a hitter."
The three-year letter-winning junior said he was there as an eighth-grader to watch the 2011 state team and looked to model himself off that team's Justin Alt.
He said he has gotten better thanks to experience with the Racine Hitters in the off-season.
"That team was involved in some pretty intense tourneys and that experience swung over to Bay; it made handling pressure situations here a lot easier," Lackney said. His unflappable nature was helped by a strong array of fastball, slider and circle change.
Lackney also liked the friendly competition on the pitching staff that included the likes of Joe Kaszubowski, Stasiak, Adam Fuda and Kirby Annis.
"We were always a bit selfish," he said. 'We always wanted to complete our games. We weren't really competing with one another, we were just trying to make each other better, try to get the best team ERA possible."
That the Blue Dukes succeeded at with a collective 1.23 mark.
"We always managed to get big hits when we needed them," said Stasiak, "but it was great to have that behind us (the pitching)."
Both Stasiak and Lackney said the rebuilt Cahill Field complex was a great incentive to aim high this season.
"We really wanted to defend the field," said Stasiak, "because it was such a great place to play on."
"We didn't want to let down the people who had put so much time and effort on it," said Lackney. "In the end, I don't think it was a total waste of money (laughs)."
The Blue Dukes went 7-2 in an early season nine-game home stretch and finished 20-4 at home overall.
Then there was the big incentive of earning that first league title.
"We talked to Woj (Wojcinski) before the season started in January," said Lackney. "We'd been close to the conference title the last few years and this year we wanted it. We wanted to win every conference game and get the North Shore title for the school.
"It was talked about early and then not brought up again. We just went out and played baseball."
All the conference games were not won but enough were to claim the outright crown.
Now both are looking to the future.
Stasiak is uncertain of his baseball future as he wants to go to Wisconsin and major in business. The Badgers have no baseball program but they do have a strong club team, he said.
Meanwhile, Lackney will return for us fourth year next summer with a host of friends. College is still far away on his radar as he wants to focus on finishing batters better when he gets ahead in counts.
"I also want to mix things up a little more and not come in with the same gameplan all the time," he said, "because teams will catch on. I want to pitch to how my arm is working."
Both he and Stasiak's seemed to do just fine this summer.
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