Oak Creek baseball team rallies to top Panthers in sectional final
Knights put on rally in sectional
Neatly combining the long ball with small ball, the Oak Creek baseball team rallied past Greendale 6-4 in a thrilling WIAA sectional championship contest July 21.
The Knights found themselves trailing 4-1 after the Panthers tallied three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on a three-run double by Tristian Pipp and a run-scoring single from Ty Ramirez.
Oak Creek came back with three runs in the top of the sixth inning, keyed by a two-run home run from Steve Stilwell, to tie the game at 4-4.
With the game still even in the top of the seventh inning, the Knights put runners on second and third with two outs; then Ryan Farr and DJ Ellifson both pulled off squeeze bunts to bring home a pair of runs.
Jesse Sustachek, who worked the whole game on the mound, then held off a Greendale rally in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory.
Homestead is next
The Knights, who had earlier topped Muskego 4-2 in their sectional semifinal game, improved to 24-7 and earned a trip to the state tournament Friday, July 25, at Kapco Park on the Concordia University campus.
They will take on Homestead, a 10-4 winner over Whitefish Bay, in their first game at 12:05 p.m.
The Panthers, who downed New Berlin Eisenhower 7-2 in their sectional semifinal, finished a brilliant season at 29-4.
Greendale head coach Brian Johnsen graciously praised Oak Creek, which continues to be a strong tournament team.
"All the credit in the world goes to Oak Creek," Johnsen said. "They just made a couple more plays than we did. They executed the plays."
Especially in the final two innings, when the Knights came back from the three-run deficit.
The beginning of the game was a pitcher's duel between Greendale's Ty Ramirez, who did not allow a hit in 31/3 innings but walked six men, and Oak Creek's Jesse Sustachek, who also did not give up a hit in the first three frames.
The Knights had taken the lead in the top of the third when Ramirez walked Stilwell and hit Farr and Ellifson back-to-back to load the bases.
He then walked Matt Hargreaves on a 3-2 pitch to force in the first run of the game but escaped further damage by retiring the side on a pair of pop-ups and a strikeout.
Oak Creek nursed that 1-0 lead until the fifth inning, when the Greendale bats came alive.
Panthers stage rally
David Wood reached on an infield single, and Ben Moore singled to left-center. A walk to Angel Ramirez loaded the bases with two outs.
Pipp then stepped up and belted a pitch to deep center field for a double to drive in all three runs, and he then scored on a single up the middle by Ty Ramirez to make it 4-1.
The Knights quickly rallied as Matt Hamilton singled to center field, and Stilwell ripped a pitch over the left field fence for a home run to bring the Knights within 4-3.
"It was a fastball right down the middle, and I took advantage of it," Stilwell said. "That was my first home run (of the season). I've been struggling, so it's kind of an exciting moment to come up and hit a home run like that."
A single from Farr and two walks loaded the bases again, and Doran Turchin drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.
After Sustachek held Greendale scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, the Knights went to work again in the top of the seventh against Panther ace Zack Henderson, who entered the game in relief in that frame.
Josh Duchniak drew a walk and pinch-runner Austin Sustachek was bunted to second. Mitchel Makarewicz hit a bouncer into left field for a single, giving Oak Creek runners at first and third with one out.
Makarewicz stole second and, after a strikeout, Farr stepped to the plate.
Squeeze works twice
He dropped a squeeze bunt in front of Henderson, who came off the mound well but could not make the play, and the lead run scored.
"Coach (Scott Holler) called it," Farr said. "I was a little surprised on that, but (I thought) whatever the team needs to win to go to state. I could have got it down the third base line like I was supposed to, but I still got it down."
Holler called the squeeze bunt because he figured it was his team's best chance to score against the fireballing Henderson.
"We knew Henderson was bringing it, and after seeing that the third baseman was playing back, we went with a bunt," Holler said. "We wanted to get it down the third-base line, but it worked."
Ellifson, the next hitter, then bunted right down the third-base line to bring home Makarewicz with the second run.
"We noticed the third baseman was still playing back, and DJ is one of our best bunters," Holler said.
Sustachek took the mound for the bottom of the seventh. Moore reached on an error and after two outs, Ty Ramirez doubled to right field to put runners at second and third.
Sustachek then retired Sam Sabinash on a fly ball to center to end the game and start Oak Creek's celebration.
"We knew with Sustachek on the mound, we had a chance," Holler said.
The coach said his team has experienced a season of ups and downs, but now the Knights are ready to challenge for another state championship.
Greendale coach Johnsen was happy with his team's effort and said, "I'm proud of my team. They gave it their all and played with heart. It was a great ballgame. Oak Creek just made a couple more plays."
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