It was more work in one day than Oak Creek baseball coach Scott Holler probably wanted his Knights to do.
But the twin wins over West Allis Hale (8-7) and West Allis Central (9-3) on June 27 were more than enough to get the job done for the youthful team, as after an excruciating first three days of last week, the Knights finally clinched their sixth Greater Metro Conference regular season championship since 2005.
"It was nice to finally get it done," Holler said. "Get it wrapped up. It was a tough stretch with all the rain. It was hard keeping everyone fresh. Here we had this magic number (going into last week) and then we couldn't get it done because we can't get our games in.
"It wasn't that we had so much pressure. We just couldn't get our games in, we couldn't get on the field. That was the frustrating thing."
"This was a big weight lifted from our shoulders," said shortstop and ace pitcher Hayden Krimmer, who also played in the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Classic last weekend in Oshkosh. "We've had some fun with this young team this season, but now we're getting a chance to show how good we really are."
The Knights, who lost a pair of games at the Laser Invitational at UW-Whitewater on Saturday using a lot of reserve players, try to bookend its regular season crown with the GMC tourney title this week. Early round games were held Tuesday and Wednesday and final tilts will be played Friday at Brookfield Central with the title game slated for 4:30 p.m.
Oak Creek hosted eighth-seeded Tosa East on Tuesday in a GMC quarterfinal. If it won, it would play the winner of Brookfield East and Central in a semifinal that was played Wednesday afternoon.
Furthermore, the seeding meeting for the WIAA Whitnall sectional was held earlier this week. The defending state champion Knights (15-3 in conference, 18-6 overall) are in line for the top seed in the event with red-hot Franklin (11 wins in a row starting this week) likely to get the two seed.
"The conference tourney will be great preparation for the state tourney," Holler said. "It'll be just like that. You'll see a team's number one (pitcher) the first day and then their number two the next. I tell the guys it'll be like a mini-state tourney in its intensity. Single elimination just like the (state) playoffs."
The intensity couldn't have been much higher last week for the Knights. They lost out on a chance to tie for the league title when it lost to Franklin on June 24 (see June 27 issue of the NOW for details) and then in a rain-delayed game from an earlier date on June 26, they had a 4-0 lead with two outs in the seventh on Marquette, only to have the Hilltoppers rally and tie the game.
The game was suspended at 5-5 after eight innings because it was played at "The Rock" at 76th and Rawson, and it had a 21/2 hour time limit because of adult leagues later that evening. It was not completed until Monday, when the Knights pulled out a 6-5 victory in 10 innings.
"It was like we had done something to anger the baseball gods," Holler said. "We just couldn't get it done (the GMC crown)."
That left it up June 27's oddball twinbill, as they played Hale at 12:30 p.m. at Abendschein and then raced over to Belich Field in West Allis for the 5:30 p.m. tilt with Central.
And the Hale game was as harrowing as it looked. The Knights had a 7-3 lead after four, but then the Huskies scored four times to tie things up in the fifth. Oak Creek finally pushed across the game-winner in the bottom of the sixth as hot-hitting Mitch Hart started things out with a single. He was sacrificed over to second and then came home in messy fashion, moving to third on a wild pitch and then scoring on a passed ball.
"We hadn't caught many breaks lately, but there we did," Holler said. "Their catcher got crossed up (on the pitch that scored the game-winner)."
Hart had two hits, and Colton Giessel (two strikeouts) got the win in relief of D.J. Ellifson.
That win clinched the tie for the title.
Things were a little easier in claiming the outright crown later that day against Central. Oak Creek scored five times in the first two innings and then held off a three-run rally by the Bulldogs clinching the win with four runs in the seventh.
Krimmer, Matt Hargreaves and Ellifson all had two hits apiece, and Giessel (four innings, four strikeouts) won with relief help from Matt Hamilton.
"We didn't have a huge celebration," Holler said. "We've known for awhile that we could get it done. It was just a matter of time."
Krimmer was equally low-key as Oak Creek has now won regular season GMC titles in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011 and now 2013.
"Our goals at the start of the season were to win conference and get back to state," Krimmer said. "That hasn't changed."
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