Late in the Oak Creek girls’ softball team’s 5-1 WIAA sectional semifinal win over visiting Muskego on a May 30 afternoon at Greg Lampe Field, a rainbow appeared during a quick, misty rain.
Maybe it was a sign that the Knights’ two years of frustration in WIAA sectional play may be finally coming to an end
They’ll enter the 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 1 WIAA sectional final at Southeast rival Kenosha Bradford (21-6) with a 23-game winning streak, a school record 27-1 mark and a number three ranking in the state.
Furthermore, they’ll have the incentive of having lost to Bradford in sectional play the last two years. Semifinals last season and in the finals 2016. The Knights have beaten the Red Devils twice this season, but Creek coach Jeff Trask knows the tournament is a whole different animal.
“Just one more step,” said Trask. “We’re not going to overlook anyone. We’ve got to show up and play the game the best we can. Not focus on who we’re playing but how we’re playing.”
And at moments on Tuesday against a good Muskego team (16-7), the Knights looked awfully good.
They took the lead in the second, as Peyton Strong singled home Katie Mitchell who had opened the inning with a walk.
In the top of that frame, all-state caliber pitcher Becca Oleniczak dodged a bullet after giving up a lead-off double to Madeline Krafcheck. But she bore down and got some stellar defense to keep Krafcheck at third including some alert play on a one-out safety squeeze which prevented the runner from taking off while also getting an out at first.
“Becca was able to get a lot of ground-ball outs today and that play was important, it really set us up well,” said Trask.
The Warriors did tie the score in the fourth as Jaylin Strain singled and eventually scored after a walk and an infield error. But with two on and two out, Oleniczak got a strike out and a fly-out to center to end the threat.
Oak Creek took the lead for good in the fourth as Mitchell walked again to lead off the inning, moved to second on catcher Jenna Trewyn’s sacrifice and again came home on a Strong single.
The lead improved to 3-1 in the fifth as swift lead-off hitter Tori Golden raced all the way to third on a dropped one-out fly ball and then came home on Haili Cota’s single.
Selena Bento then added some important insurance runs in the sixth with a two-out, two-run single.
The game ended in nifty fashion as after an error to open the seventh, Oleniczak struck out the next batter and then snagged a low line-drive off the bat of the next hitter and then quickly doubled off the runner at first.
Oleniczak scattered four hits with five strikeouts and two walks as Strong and Cota had two hits and two RBI apiece. Warriors’ pitcher Claire Terp had five strikeouts with three walks.
Trask is now optimistic that his experience-heavy team with many two- and three-year letterwinners can break through and earn the Knights their first state tournament berth since 2008.
“The kids are excited,” he said. “The bats are a little inconsistent right now, but they will come around. There’s just a little anxiety there. Everyone wants to get the big hit.
“But this season has been unbelievably fun and things have really come together. The kids are playing for each other which is a big deal. I think the seniors (all seven of them) really want it for each other.”
A neat piece of sportsmanship occurred after the post-game handshakes. Two Muskego players came over to the Oak Creek dugout and checked on the condition of Mitchell who had been shaken up on a close-play and collision at first in the fifth after she hit a nubber on the infield. Mitchell was checked out briefly after taking the hit but stayed in the game. The Muskego players were genuinely concerned and shook hands with Mitchell.