Breaking a record held by all-time Oak Creek baseball great deserves a special celebration.
So when Knight pitcher Hayden Krimmer was being interviewed after claiming the victory in Oak Creek's 9-3 WIAA regional final victory over visiting South Milwaukee Friday, he was caught by surprise when his teammates doused him with an ice bucket bath.
"Sorry about that," he laughed, noting that there was a fair amount of splash from the bucket and an even larger amount of laughter coming from his happy teammates.
With the victory, Krimmer now has 26 career wins, breaking the Major League draft choice Butler's old mark of 25. He did it in splendid fashion, with a five strikeout-no walk effort on the hill and a spectacular effort with the bat, including three hits and four RBI.
"Doing that feels great," said Krimmer of breaking the pitching record. "Tony is always somebody that I've looked up to."
His coach Scott Holler said it couldn't happen to a more deserving player.
"He's just been outstanding all year long," said Holler. "I can't say enough about his leadership. Just a great example to the others in the way that he carries himself. He competes every inning. He just never takes an inning off."
With the win, the Greater Metro Conference and defending state champions (22-7) advance to a WIAA sectional semifinal at Whitnall on Monday against fourth-seeded Muskego at 11 a.m. The other semifinal features second-seeded New Berlin West against third-seeded Franklin.
The sectional final, with a berth in the WIAA State Tournament on July 19 at stake, will be played back at Whitnall at 5 p.m. Monday.
Krimmer's competitive nature manifested itself in different ways Friday night at a packed Abendschein Field on a perfect night for baseball.
The first opportunity came early.
The Rockets got a lead-off double in the first and then two batters later, had runners on first and third with only one out. No matter, Krimmer struck out the next two batters swinging to end the threat.
"There's always a lot of pressure on us anyway," said Krimmer. "We're always expected to win, so that was nothing new."
"What a great example of poise and composure," said Holler. "His last six pitches were strikes and four of them were curveballs. That really set the tone for the night. They score and then they start thinking that they can hang around and have a chance."
As it turned out, the Knights didn't give the game Rockets (15-15), who had advanced with a 3-0 regional semifinal win over West Allis Hale on Tuesday, much of an opportunity to hang around.
Krimmer helped himself with an RBI single in the bottom of the first as shortstop Doran Turchin notched a sacrifice fly later in the frame for a 2-0 lead.
While Krimmer was in the midst of putting down eight batters in a row, Oak Creek increased the lead to 4-0 in the third as both Matt Hamilton and Jesse Sustachek came up with RBI doubles.
The Rockets scratched on an unearned run on an RBI single from Zach Osell in the fourth inning to make it 4-1, but then that just raised the level of excitement on the Oak Creek bench.
In their half of the frame, the Knights chased tiring South Milwaukee ace Evan Marlowe, who had thrown over 80 pitches on Tuesday in earning the Rockets' their win over Hale.
Krimmer hit several hard foul balls before cranking a Marlowe offering high over the leftfield foul pole at Abendschein for a two-run homer and then first baseman Mitch Hart followed that with a solo shot of his own over the 340-foot sign in left-center to make it 7-1.
Krimmer then worked a one-two-three fifth for his final inning of of the night as Mitch Makarewicz was a little shaky in the sixth and seventh innings (four walks and one strikeout).
The Rockets closed the gap to 7-3 on an error by Krimmer at second ("he was very mad at himself for that," said Holler) and then an RBI walk by Ben Schilz, but the Knights got those runs back with the help of a wild pitch and of course, an RBI single by Krimmer.
The exuberent Knights celebrated their victory, their last at Abendschein this season, in a exuberent way, doing a laughing, shouting, dancing circular series of high fives that led one player to hoot "Let's go around again".
Holler would like the team to go around again in the victory circle. He was impressed with this victory, especially given the fact that the Rockets had handled easily a Hale team that the Knights had particular trouble with this season.
"We weren't taking anything lightly," said Holler. "They shutout Hale and in our games with them (two close wins over the Huskies), we couldn't get them out."
All told, the Knights had 12 hits as both Hamilton and Hart had two safeties and an RBI. No one had more than one hit for South Milwaukee, which was limited to three safeties all told.
Holler is happy to head into sectional with Krimmer as his leader.
"What a pleasure it is to coach him," said Holler.
Krimmer is just looking at the big picture as the Knights have now won six of their last seven games.
"To win our last game at home feels great," he said. "We've had some great accomplishments (in recent weeks) and I think we're rolling as a team."
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