Prior to taking over as Muskego coach this year, Jacob Paige spent the last five years in the junior varsity position for Oak Creek.
So he was pleased Tuesday night when his man Austin Wendlandt blasted a pitch from Oak Creek's Hayden Krimmer into left-center for a three-run double in the third. Muskego left the top of that frame with a 4-1 lead.
Paige was pleased, but he knew the game was far from over and he was right, as the Knights nibbled away at his ace Cole Borek inning after inning until they pulled ahead in the seventh inning and took a critical, 6-4, Greater Metro Conference victory.
"They are relentless," said Paige. "They can hit from the top of their order to the bottom. There is just no let-up."
Krimmer, who got great help from his defense in not letting the Warriors score again on the evening, said it was all just part of the Oak Creek philosophy.
"We just refuse to lose and never let up," he said. "After we got down, we just decided we had to stick with it. ...because every game in the GMC is important."
With the win, the Knights stayed in first in the highly competitive GMC at 13-2 (19-2 overall), a full game ahead of defending state champion Franklin (11-2, 14-2). The loss was a body blow to Muskego's chances as the Warriors fell to 9-5 in league (15-5 overall).
The victory also avenged a 1-0 defeat the Warriors inflicted on the Knights earlier this season.
Oak Creek coach Scott Holler called on a different aspect of the team philosophy and it was particularly apt this game.
"We try to break the night down into seven one-inning games and if we win the majority of those little battles, we should win the game," he said. "We took five innings tonight and that won us the game."
It was won in one individual battle after another and it was never easy, as Oak Creek nicked Muskego ace Cole Borek again and again over the course of the game. Knight leftfielder Kyle Veloz played a huge role starting in the bottom of the third as he had an RBI single to cut the gap to 4-2.
But then Borek flashed his all-state form by striking out the next three batters and stranding two Oak Creek runners.
The Knights continued to put pressure on Borek in the fourth as catcher Josh Jesko (two hits) had an RBI single to make it 4-3, but Borek got out of it without any further damage again, as Veloz hit a hard one-hopper to Warriors' third baseman Jake Jewell with the bases-loaded and one out.
Jewell deftly snagged the ball, stepped on the bag and threw over to first for an inning-ending doubleplay.
Veloz extracted some revenge in the top of the fifth by flashing some leather of his own. Muskego's Nick Schmidkofer ripped a shot to left-center with a man on first. Even Holler thought the run was going to score on the play.
"I thought 'Well, we're going to need two perfect throws to make this happen,'" said Holler.
And the Knights got them, as Veloz rifled a perfect toss to third baseman Jake Gordon, who had moved into short left. Gordon then set his feet and let loose with a cannon shot to Jesko at the plate, beating the Muskego runner by a step or two.
"When I saw that, I just went 'Wow'," said Krimmer. "What a great momentum changer."
"We've thrown out something like five or six people at the plate this season," said Holler. "That's what Kyle (Veloz), Joey (Gribble) and Ryan (Ungerecht) do in the outfield for us. They come up throwing and they make plays for us."
Holler was also pleased with the contributions the bottom of the order as Tanner Johnson (two hits) came up with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score.
Krimmer used that as incentive to strike out the side in the sixth and then helped himself in the Knight half of the frame with an RBI ground-out to put the Knights ahead for good. Gordon (two hits) helped out with a run-scoring single later in the inning. All told, the Knights would get 13 hits against Borek.
Krimmer gave up a one-out walk in the seventh but then got a soft liner to second and a pop-out to first to end the game.
Paige could only tip his hat to the Knight hurler who finished with six strikeouts and just one walk.
"We roughed him (Krimmer) up (in the third) but he bounced back from that," said Paige, "and they made plays behind him. They're just very well coached."
"It was too bad really, this would have put us right in there, but I was pleased with the way we battled all night."
Holler said he had Krimmer on a short string late in the game.
"Our philosophy became 'He's got one more batter, just one more batter,'" said Holler. "Well he kept getting them out and we kept giving him one more batter."
In short, he was relentless.
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