Oak Creek's Turchin a leader in many respects
Knight SS Now Baseball Player of the Year
Simply put, Doran Turchin is a baseball player, cut from the pure Oak Creek mold of success that includes speed, a strong arm, a quick bat and a willingness to put team first.
He was slated for the outfield this season and, with his cannon arm (he has been clocked 94 miles an hour throwing from that position), he would have stopped anyone from taking an extra base dead in his tracks.
But defensive needs for a reloading team pushed him back into the quarterback's role on the infield, at shortstop, leading the team so well that veteran coach Scott Holler would on occasion stop and turn around back to the dugout when thinking of giving instructions to the team.
He knew Turchin had already taken care of things in that regard.
In the end, that kind of effort led the pitching short Knights to a share of the Greater Metro Conference regular season title and a WIAA state tournament berth and earned Turchin Now Newspapers Player of the Year honors, becoming the fifth Knight player to earn the honor in the process.
Turchin knew that the team, like himself, would have to fight for everything it would get this season.
"It's all about self-discipline," he said. "Baseball is a sport of failure. You fail seven of 10 times at the plate and you're still considered pretty good ... and we had our ups and downs this year. At times we were great (no-hitters by D.J. Ellifson and Jesse Sustachek) while other times we weren't so great. We would battle ourselves.
"I never thought that a lot of teams beat us. We often beat ourselves."
But they won when they needed to. Turchin often provided a spark — a clutch late-game grand slam to beat archrival Franklin, a big throw from deep in the hole to get a key out, big hits in the sectional final victory against powerful Greendale.
His impact could not be overstated.
"Just the best athlete I have coached," Holler said. "He saved so many runs with his range and his arm."
Turchin got noticed in the process, also earning first-team WBCA All-State honors and gaining the respect of nearby friendly rival coach Jim Hughes of Franklin.
"He is certainly one of the best hitters we saw this season," Hughes said. "He is a tough out. We didn't have much success getting him out. We've seen him for three years now, and the bad news is, we have to see him again next year. He has a good arm and good size. He's just a good hitter. He hits the ball to center field a lot. He doesn't try to pull everything; he hits the ball where it is pitched.
"He certainly changed one of our games this year with the grand slam, and he probably changes a lot of games."
And as Holler has indicated many times this season, he was a leader. A junior who led by example and voice and who was careful not to step on the toes of senior co-captains Matt Hargreaves, Mitch Hart and Jesse Sustachek.
"For the most part, I just tried to do whatever coach needed me to do," Turchin said. "If that took a move to shortstop, that's what I did. I already knew that we had great leaders in Mitch (Hart), Jesse (Sustachek) and Matt (Hargreaves). I just wanted to help any way I could."
"The biggest thing this season for him was that he took on a much bigger leadership role," said Holler. "He was much more mentally tougher than he was his sophomore year. It was one major hurdle that he had to overcome to have success. He didn't take at-bats with him to the dugout anymore.
"And he was always barking out instructions. He was our double-check, always directing traffic for our outfielders and our pitchers. He just knows the game that well."
The numbers speak for themselves. He hit .444 (44 of 99) with 11 doubles, three triples, four home runs and a near-school record 46 RBI and 30 runs scored, but his favorite moments always involved someone else.
Those moments included Ellifson's no-no against West Allis Hale, Sustachek's massively impressive near-perfect game in the regular season closer against eventual state champion Brookfield Central that clinched a share of the GMC regular season title and the win over Greendale that got them to state.
"I just remember the mindset that whole week (of the WIAA playoffs), that if we play Oak Creek baseball, no one can beat us," he said of the Greendale contest.
Spoken like the true product of the system that he is.
He began his career in the Oak Creek Little League as an infielder and a catcher. He is a veteran of the Racine Hitters spring and fall programs and was a right fielder his freshman year before moving to shortstop last year.
"I feel I improved a great deal between last year and this year," he said. "I started out good this summer and then I felt that I stayed hot. I felt that I did pretty well defensively, too, but I know I can always improve there."
He already is. Turchin knew he had the slick-fielding Hargreaves to his right at third, so he knew he could cheat a little more toward second and cut off the hole up the middle
"Having a player like Matt there at third really made my life easier," Turchin said.
He added that team unity made it easier to overcome the rough spots in the 24-10 season.
"Everyone knew where they needed to be," he said.
For future plans, Turchin has settled on the University of Illinois, where he might revert to the outfield.
In the interim, he is going to have some fun his senior year. He had been a starter in the defensive backfield for the Southeast Conference champion football team in 2012 but did not go out last fall wanting to improve his baseball skills.
He got a hearty and sincere green light from Holler (who is also the school athletic director) to head back to the gridiron to help improve the Knights' fortunes again this fall.
"It's one final year to go out there and play with my friends," Turchin said.
Before getting back to the business of baseball.
All season long, Holler raved about how much fun he and the other coaches had working with this good-natured, easy-to-get-along-with team. That trait was recognized on a broader scale recently when the Knights won the WIAA/Rural Mutual Insurance Company team sportsmanship award for the recently held state summer tournament. All season long, the Knights were a loud, gregarious, competitive bunch but always kept it clean and responded well to the leadership of co-captains Hargreaves, Hart and Sustachek, as well as that of Turchin.
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