Muskego foils Oak Creek league title hopes with seventh inning rally
Knights host WIAA regional on Friday
Oak Creek - The Oak Creek baseball team was just three outs from a share of their third straight Greater Metro Conference title when the Knights held a 2-1 lead over Muskego going into the seventh inning of the league tournament final on July 6.
But even though Oak Creek ace Brad Schulte had set down 13 Warriors in a row going into the frame, Muskego coach Jacob Paige and eventual winning pitcher Josh Breider knew all the team needed was a little spark.
And they got it from seventh-inning leadoff hitter Nate Hammel, who coaxed a sharp grounder just inside the third base line for a double. That led to a four-hit, four-run rally that allowed the visiting Warriors to claim the GMC tournament title with a 5-2 victory over the Knights.
"We had no doubts," said Breider, who threw six innings for the win and also had a two-run single to knock in a pair of insurance runs in the seventh. "We knew we could get one run. We just needed a base-runner.
"After that, it was just a matter of holding our composure, trusting our defense and making plays."
Muskego (20-10) earned a share of the title with regular season champion Menomonee Falls (26-4).
Oak Creek coach Scott Holler was disappointed by the outcome, as his club also finished one game back in the conference standings to Falls.
"Give their kids credit," he said of the Warriors. "They really battled back."
Ready for playoffs
Oak Creek (23-7), however, now turns its attention to a state title.
As the top seed in the WIAA West Allis Hale Sectional, the Knights had a first-round bye. The Knights will host the winner of ninth-seeded New Berlin Eisenhower and eighth-seeded Cudahy in a regional final at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The sectional is slated for Monday at Hale.
While Oak Creek is the favorite to emerge from the sectional as the No. 1 seed, Holler said anything can happen at this point.
Such is the case of what happened immediately following Hammel's double. Muskego designated hitter Peter Jewel had a hard time getting down a bunt his first two tries but then popped up the ball along the first-base line in his final try.
Knights catcher Bryan Flick saw a chance to make a great play with a diving catch but came up a little short. The ball spun wildly and appeared to be headed toward the foul line, but Flick accidentally touched it and everyone was safe.
"That was a tough, tough play," Holler said.
Warriors come to life
Immediately following that, Muskego outfielder Joey Bandoszeski flared a ball over Knights shortstop Casey Magyar's head for the game-tying single.
After a successful sacrifice, Holler had Schulte intentionally walk Tyler Thomka to load the bases and set up a potential double play, but Schulte then walked outfielder Zack Mattson to force in the go-ahead run.
After Hayden Krimmer relieved Schulte, Breider greeted him with a hard-pounding single that sliced through the middle of the infield for two more runs.
Not even third baseman Tanner Johnson's spectacular 5-3 double-play to end the inning shortly thereafter could take the edge off what had been a disaster of an inning for the Knights.
Jewel then came on in relief of Breider and after a leadoff walk to Magyar, he got a strikeout, a groundout to first and a soft liner to short to give the Warriors the victory and a share of the league title.
Breider, who finished with five strikeouts and four walks with only four hits allowed, had been staked to a 1-0 lead with the help of an unusual play. With two out in the top of the first, Muskego first baseman Austin Wendlandt was eventually ruled to have been hit by a pitch on his foot.
Initially, both the home plate and base umpires said there was no hit, but Paige requested to see if the ball had any shoe scuffs on it. The ball had bounced up against the backstop, but the home-plate umpire picked it up and ruled that Wendlandt had indeed been hit by the pitch.
Holler was initially skeptical of the call, noting that the ball could have been discolored by banging into the backstop, but he didn't raise a stink despite the fact that two batters later, Wendlandt scored the game's first run on a single by Hammel.
"In the end, it proved to be neither here nor there," Holler said.
Schulte was rolling
That was because Schulte, after a tough couple of early innings, settled into a groove and gave his team a chance, scattering four hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
His run of 13 in a row lasted from the last batter of the second inning right until the end of the sixth.
Oak Creek finally got Schulte the lead in the bottom of the fourth as designated hitter Matt Hargreaves singled and then Schulte ripped a double to put runners on second and third with one out.
Breider struck out the Knights' Dakota Slone, but the pitch scooted past the catcher all the way to the fence, allowing Hargreaves to score the tying run and for Slone to reach first.
Magyar then hit a strong sacrifice fly to center field to bring home courtesy runner Kahler Cox with the go-ahead score.
Grinding out runs
It had been typical of Oak Creek rallies in recent weeks as it has had to scratch and claw for runs ever since outfielder Austin Barbee went down with a shoulder injury a couple of weeks ago.
Holler said that Hargreaves has been a good replacement at the plate for Barbee, but noted that it's hard to make up for Barbee's speed in the outfield and on the base paths.
Breider gave his team an opportunity too, as he downed the last seven Oak Creek batters he faced after giving up the two runs.
But it appeared the Knights were going to hold on until the Warriors' rally in the seventh.
"Breider threw a really good game," Holler said. "He's as good as advertised. He threw a couple of 0-2 curveballs for strikes that were amazing. He has great mound presence and command.
"They (the Warriors) are going to be a tough out in the (WIAA) tourney."
Conference Tournament Semifinal Notes
Oak Creek 6, Franklin 2: The Knights rode the strong arm of freshman pitcher Mitch Makarewicz and some opportunistic play to defeat archrival Franklin, 6-2, on July 5, a GMC tourney semifinal.
"I was excited," he said. "Nothing was bothering me. Not the heat (98-plus degrees at game-time), not anything. In fact, it (the heat) just gave me some extra motivation. It was a pretty good feeling that coach had confidence in me, considering I'm just a freshman."
Makarewicz pitched four strong innings, giving up just three hits with four strikeouts and two walks. He mixed a strong fastball with a solid breaking ball. He left the game with a 2-0 lead and earned the win.
"For him to go out there and take the ball in that situation and be absolutely fearless for four innings is just a real credit to him (Makarewicz)," Holler said. "We had a feeling that the game was going to be low-scoring and he just went out there and commanded the strike zone."
Makarewicz got relief help from Kahler Cox.
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