After wild week, Knights still have chances at GMC baseball titles

Season-ending injury to Barbee will hurt

July 2, 2012

Oak Creek - It was a rocky five days for the Oak Creek baseball team last week, and it included a 6-0 loss to Franklin on June 26 that put the Knights behind the eight-ball for the Greater Metro Conference title.

Further, in that game, the Knights lost one of their top pitcher/outfielders Austin Barbee for the season, with a shoulder injury.

Then, after pulling out a harrowing 7-6 decision over GMC cellar-dweller West Allis Central on June 28, Oak Creek used alternative lineups in the Kettle Moraine Invite on June 30 and pulled out a split, beating North Shore Conference leader, Germantown, 4-0, but falling to the NSC's last-place team, Nicolet, 10-4.

But after all that, the Knights (15-4 in league, 19-6 overall) still went into Monday's game against Sussex Hamilton (11-8, 14-10) with a chance at a share of the GMC regular season title. They need to win and have Marquette (8-11, 12-13) upset current leader Menomonee Falls (16-3, 23-3), also on Monday.

"If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we'd be playing a game at the end of the season with championship implications, I would have taken it in a heartbeat," said Knights coach Scott Holler. "We have this chance and it's a credit to the kids and to the guts they have shown this season."

Following that Monday game with Hamilton, the GMC tournament starts on Tuesday and will continue Thursday and Friday. Oak Creek will be no worse than a second seed in the event (if Falls beat Marquette, it would win the GMC regular season title outright and earn the top seed). Higher seeds will host throughout the event.

Further, the Knights earned the top seed in the WIAA West Allis Hale Sectional. They will get a first-round bye and host a regional final on July 13 against the winner of New Berlin Eisenhower/Cudahy matchup.

"Frankly, I thought (No. 2 seed) New Berlin West could make a good case for the top seed," said Holler, "but even with nine Woodland and five Greater Metro Conference teams in the sectional, we were pretty much the consensus choice (for the top spot). I think our strength of schedule helped us out."

This strong SOS included some interesting games at the Kettle Moraine Tournament, which was played on UW-Whitewater's fine artificial turf field.

In the 4-0 win over Germantown, Holler ran out 6-5, 280-pound freshman Nathan Veloz. And on a hot day, the pitcher did a nice job over 5-1/3 innings with four walks and two strikeouts. He got help from Brad Schulte and Kahler Cox.

"We call him our CC Sabathia look-alike," Holler said. "He did a wonderful job and we turned three double-plays behind him. He may be a contributor for us down the stretch." Riley Shelton had a critical two-run single in the fourth.

In the nightcap against Nicolet, Holler played a number of players and the inconsistent Nicolet squad had one of its better days.

"They hit the snot out of the ball on us and pitched a pretty good freshman who gave us only two hits and two walks over four innings," Holler said. "Then they threw their catcher in the seventh and he struck out the side throwing close to 90 miles an hour."

On the plus-side, junior Colton Giessel pitched two-plus innings of shutout relief ball with two strikeouts.

Against Central on June 28, the Knights trailed 6-5 going into the bottom of the seventh before rallying for two runs to win it. Hayden Krimmer got the win, throwing one inning of relief with two walks and a strikeout while also having three hits and three RBIs and Tanner Johnson also had three hits.

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