Oak Creek - In the deep past when the Baltimore Orioles ruled baseball, it was described as Earl Weaver style.
About a decade ago, coach Mark Rohde and the bombers from Brookfield Central used it to win a WIAA state title.
Now, the brand of baseball that features good pitching, sound defense and the occasional home run is simply known as the "Oak Creek way."
The epitome of that philosophy on June 14 in the Knights' impressive 7-1 road win at a good Menomonee Falls squad was senior centerfielder Joey Gribble.
Gribble took away a run-scoring extra-base hit from Indians catcher Corey Volden in the first with a diving catch and then broke the game wide open in the sixth, when he rode a 1-2, two-out curveball from Falls starter Logan August over the leftfield fence at Trenary Park for a grand slam home run.
That smack made it 7-1 and allowed the Knights (9-2 in Greater Metro play and 13-2 overall) to keep pace with Franklin (9-1, 12-1) in the GMC. The Knights and the Sabers will have a showdown at Abendschein Park at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Oak Creek will need some of that same timely hitting it got against Falls to be on display against the defending state champion Sabers.
"They're a team that has a lot of experience and they've really handled their business well," said Oak Creek coach Scott Holler. "They've won a lot of close games and in my mind they're the best team around."
Franklin beat Oak Creek, 7-4, on May 31.
After the game against Franklin, the Knights will be at the UW-Whitewater Tournament on Saturday, playing Nicolet at noon and Kettle Moraine at 7 p.m. But they will be without All-Suburban catcher Josh Jesko, who will be at the WBCA All-Star Classic in Oshkosh this weekend.
But, as Gribble showed against Falls, there's more to the Knights than just Jesko.
"The pitch was just hanging a little bit and I got all of it," said Gribble of his hit against Falls. "It was a good pitch to hit. It was the first grand slam of my career."
"It was a funny situation," added Holler. "We were just playing for another run. Billy Wallace gets a clutch hit and then we get another couple of good at-bats and Joey comes up and just knocks it out of here. He has just been red-hot lately."
The blast helped make a winner out of starter Chris Bournelis, who allowed one run over the course of five innings with five strikeouts and two walks.
The loss was frustrating for Falls (6-3, 8-5) as veteran coach Pat Hansen saw two calls that went against the Indians as pivotal in setting up Gribble's heroics.
Falls had cut the deficit to 2-1 in the second on Andy Von Bank's RBI double and in the third the Indians were poised to tie the game and maybe even go ahead.
Leftfielder Joe Sanicola hit a hard single to right with two men on and one out in the third. Infielder Anthony Gonzales zoomed around third, looking to score the tying run, but Knights rightfielder Ryan Ungerecht threw a one-hop throw to the catcher Jesko who swiped at Gonzales as he went by.
The umpire called Gonzales out. Hansen and Falls' fans did not agree. And after an intentional walk to Falls' Brett Krause, Bournelis got the Indians' Greg Roble swinging on a curveball to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.
"We actually call the outfield 'The no-fly zone,'" said Gribble of he and teammates Kyle Veloz and Ungerecht. "We take a lot of pride in things out there."
"That was a huge momentum play," said Holler. "And it's one we work on a lot in practice. We work hard on making those one-hop throws reach their targets. Just a huge play."
Then in the sixth, when the Indians' pitcher was working to get out of that bases-loaded jam with Gribble at the plate, he went for a pick-off play at first. Falls' partisans thought he had his man for the third out, but the umpire disagreed.
The next pitch resulted in Gribble's grand slam.
Oak Creek put a punctuation mark on the win with a stellar 5-4-3 double play in the seventh started by Jake Gordon.
Veloz had three hits and Jesko two for Oak Creek.
"This was a very good win against a very well-coached opponent," Holler said. "And their pitcher was outstanding for much of the game. We just took advantage of a few things and were able to come away with a big victory."
Oak Creek 13, West Allis Central 1: The Knights used three pitchers and pounded out 12 hits in the easy victory against the winless Bulldogs last Friday.
Gribble had another huge game with four hits, four runs scored and three RBI. Wallace had two hits, with two runs scored and two RBI. Hayden Krimmer got the win throwing three innings with help from Ungerecht and Jordan Hoffmeier.
A four-run second put the game away for Oak Creek.
Oak Creek 7, New Berlin Eisenhower 3: A five-pitcher committee combined on this non-conference victory Saturday.
Connor Culver (win), Matt Hampson, Kahler Cox, Austin Barbee and Bournelis all got a little work against the Lions. A four-run fifth gave the Knights a 6-0 lead as Wallace (two RBI), Ungerecht and Tanner Johnson all had two hits apiece.
"With the new 30-game (schedule) limit it's a little tougher to see some of the better teams around," Holler said. "But we wanted to get these guys in and it was a pretty good game. A good win for us."
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Oak Creek girls basketball team looks to dominate with depth
- Oak Creek pulls away late to beat Brookfield Central, 59-46
- Coming off good season, will Oak Creek football team dare to be great?
- Nine Oak Creek athletes sign letters of intent
- Franklin, Oak Creek swimmers finish well at state
- Muskego rallies to end Oak Creek football season, 38-14
- Oak Creek girls cross-country team earns sectional title
- Football: Oak Creek football breezes past Milwaukee Hamilton
- Oak Creek girls cross-country title 16 years in the making
- Oak Creek, Franklin girls tennis players advance to state