Oak Creek baseball team makes history in claiming GMC tourney title
Knights first to win both tourney, regular season
If in the coming weeks the Oak Creek baseball team repeats as WIAA state champions, earning their fifth crown in the process and cementing the idea in the school administration that coach Scott Holler should have his own statute put next to the Abendschein Diamond (he would protest greatly, but hey, he deserves it), it would be a great thing.
But Holler doesn't want anybody to diminish what his painfully young team did last week in earning the Greater Metro Conference Tournament crown, giving the Knights the distinction of being the first team to win both the league regular season crown and the tournament title in the four-year history of the tourney.
The Knights downed Wauwatosa East (14-3), Brookfield East (4-2) and archrival Franklin (3-1) to earn the title. In doing so, they put up a great numerical handbook:
· In three games, this talented but occasionally cavalier team on defense committed only one error combined;
· In improving their record to 21-7, they marked the 11th straight season where they have recorded 20 or more wins; and
· In earning the victory over Brookfield East in the semifinals, senior team ace Hayden Krimmer tied all-time Oak Creek great Tony Butler's career wins record at 25.
All that and the league championship are things worth celebrating and Holler wanted everybody to know it.
"To be the first to do both is special," he said, "because it's not easy to do either. The regular season obviously means more. It tells people how much depth you had over the course of a regular season.
"What we did (winning the regular season title) was already impressive, but I told the kids going into the tourney we have a chance at doing what no GMC team has done and they responded with a heart and a passion."
Defending the title
Now the Knights will try to turn that passion back into a state title defense. They earned the top seed in the WIAA Whitnall sectional and earned a first-round and will host the winner of West Allis Hale and South Milwaukee on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Abendschein in a regional final.
If they win that, they head to Whitnall on Monday for an 11 a.m. sectional semifinal against likely either Muskego or Whitnall. The sectional final with a berth in the July 19 state tournament at Kapco Field in Mequon on the line, will be played at 5 p.m. Monday.
Woodland Conference tri-champ New Berlin West is the second seed and Franklin is the third. Holler said he will keep his team fresh prior to the regional final with a competitive intrasquad game.
"We have 21 guys, so it should be easy enough to split them up," he said.
And he is just happy to have the opportunity to get back to Mequon.
"This team has matured," he said. "As I've mentioned over the course of the season. This is a team that has tried my patience, but they kept on listening and learning and they have simply competed night in and night out."
They needed to.
Against the Sabers
In the championship game Friday, the Knights avenged a recent 5-4 loss to the Sabers behind a brilliant effort by junior Jesse Sustachek, who held a short-handed Franklin offense in check, allowing just seven hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
"Jesse was just outstanding," Holler said. "We try to keep him fresh and limit his starts to once a week and when that happens, he is really on."
The defense backed him up with a one-error performance, the only miscue of the three days. D.J. Ellifson put Oak Creek up for good with an RBI single in the second that scored Sustachek. Krimmer provided some insurance in the fifth when his groundout scored Dakota Slone, who had three hits in the contest. The Knights' run in the first scored after a passed ball after a strikeout, the seventh time a runner has reached after a strikeout this season for the Sabers.
That was more than enough offense for Sustachek. Franklin had runners on first and third with two out in the seventh but he got a strikeout to clinch the tourney title.
Hughes, who got a good effort himself out of pitchers Joe and Mike Fortman (seven strikeouts and eight hits allowed combined), was frustrated by his offense, which was handicapped by the fact that the top two hitters in the order, Austin Meyer (ankle) and Brett Hart (strep throat), had to miss the game. Meyer was the key to the Sabers' recent win over the Knights.
"We never got our leadoff guy on, and we never got anything going," Hughes said. "We hit the ball as well as they did, but we hit a lot of 'at-em's.' Krimmer at second base made a nice diving play in the third inning. We only had three hits, with Kyle Spott having two of them."
Hughes was particularly impressed with Joe Fortman, as he had been brought up from the junior varsity just two weeks ago. Fortman struck out six in five innings. This is the third time in four years Franklin has made it to the GMC final, having lost in 2010 to Menomonee Falls and 2011 to Marquette.
In the semifinal win over East on July 3, Krimmer threw six innings for the win with eight strikeouts and two walks and he also knocked in two runs as Slone also had two hits.
In the quarterfinal rout of Tosa East on July 2, an eight-run Oak Creek fifth did the job as Colton Giessel went five innings for the win with two strikeouts and two walks as Matt Hargreaves hit a trifecta with three hits, three runs scored and three RBI, while Krimmer had two hits, two runs scored and three RBI and Mitch Hart had two hits and three RBI.
Holler again praised the defense in the tourney.
"That is the biggest stat for us (the number of errors)," he said. "We made a focus of it, because in almost all our losses this season, we've had one miserable inning and it has cost us. I was very proud of the way we played defense this week. It was pretty good for any team, much less one as young as we are."
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