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  SWABA Class A Champions 1996, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2011
Ziemann Named LOL Rookie of the Year. Flaherty Gets Fan of the Year
With the Grand Championship under way and the Brookfield Bulldogs representing the LOL West sitting at 1-0, the managers and directors from the LOL West met to hand out the 2012 league awards. Five O's catcher Chandler Ziemann earned the leagues Rookie of the Year award. Although Ziemann has played for Oconomowoc in past years, this was his first full season with the team, making him eligible for the award. Jeff Rhoads was named the team's MVP and Dan Flaherty got the team award for Fan of the Year.
Other awards went to Todd Johnson of Sussex for league MVP. Todd Johnson was one home run away from earning the triple crown as he lead the league in hitting and RBIs. Johnson also finished the season going 14 for 14 in his last 14 at-bats. Adam Dominick from Pewaukee earned the Pitcher of the Year award and first year manager DJ MacLeod from Menomonee Falls got Manager of the Year.
All awards will be presented at the end of year banquet on October 6th.

2012 Season Recap
The 2012 Oconomowoc Five-O's season is in the books after Sunday's incredible playoff game ended in a heartbreaking 12-11 loss. In any tournament format the natural inclination is to remember the season by its final moments, which, except in rare situations, would be a blue note. But that wouldn't do justice to the entire body of work that was the '12 campaign. So let's for a moment pretend that this is the end of the NCAA Tournament and a rendition of "One Shining Moment" is being cued up as we roll back through select highlights and a few low lights of the just-completed season.

It started on a windy weekend in Ixonia, when the team gathered for a preseason tournament. After a 2011 season where the O's just scraped into the playoffs the question was whether the downward trend would push them out of August Madness for the coming year. The team won the tournament and then won the season opener against Monches. It started as a welcome back party for starting pitcher Rob Becker, who looked sharp in Ixonia and won the opener. But the veteran and key component of Grand Championship teams in 1999 & 2007 suffered a career-ending injury in the process. It put Becker one step closer to his likely induction in the LOL Hall of Fame at some future date, but left manager Jeff Rhoads scrambling for pitching.

The arm Rhoads came up was Chris Fischer who established himself as someone who stayed around the strike zone, made hitters beat him and let his defense do the work. Fischer's arrival, along with talented lefthander Justin Mortensen gave the pitching staff badly needed stability and youth.

Early high points of the season were a rally from a 9-0 eighth inning deficit against Kewaskum in the Tri-County night league and the team's offensive attack in the early going was built around the trio of Rhoads, Derek Nelson and Josh Bouche in the middle, with Chandler Ziemann setting the table. As the season wore on, veteran Luke Nelson began to recover from hamstring problems that plagued him early on and Nate Osterndorf gained steam and was one of the team's most consistent hitters down the stretch.

But any Land O'Lakes team can benefit from an infusion from a defense it was at the lowest point of the season that a big turning point came. Over a weekend in mid-June, Oconomowoc was buried in four consecutive games and it looked like the season was finally getting away from them. But at the same time, they got a reinforcement in the person of A.J. Ramirez. Preparing to enter his freshman year at USC's prestigious baseball program, Ramirez proved to be a defensive wizard. He was able to fill the void left when Luke Nelson struggled with his injuries and allowed Nelson to play third on his return. Later in the year A.J.'s father Roberto, a 10-year veteran of the minor leagues, played a few games with the team and the presence of the humble Ramirez family was a highlight of the 2012 season. Though it did cause some of us who had gotten comfortable in our loathing of the Trojans to have an identity crisis.

Oconomowoc won a dramatic and controversial game on June 22nd in West Bend, a Friday night win keyed when Osterndorf hit a disputed triple down the right field line and Steve Rhoads delivered a key hit and closed out the game to celebrate his 42nd birthday. It was one of a few high points for Rhoads. On June 30th, with the playoff race hotter than the summer weather, he threw a complete game at Lannon and ripped a bases-loaded triple to break the game open late. And in August he was The Postseason Hero That Wasn't. In the Tri-County semi-finals Rhoads slashed a single to left that looked set to deliver the tying run in the eighth inning of a 4-3 game before a great defensive effort gunned the run at the plate. In the LOL playoffs Rhoads hit a two-out double off the wall in West Bend to score the lead run in the 10th inning, though that lead didn't stand up.

There were some great games that ended up one run short. Twice, the O's battled Pewaukee to the end and on the steamy hot Fourth of July they were within a strike of victory. But the Muskies got last at-bat wins by one run both times. And Merton nipped Oconomowoc when Sam Mulkey threw a 172-pitch complete game and then hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth.

As it all unfolded, Jeff Rhoads was making a run at the Triple Crown and at Hustisford in a night league game delivered a home run so massive the outfielders didn't bother to budge. Oconomowoc eventually got all the component pieces clicking and ripped off a July win streak that enabled them to pull away in the playoff race.

In the end, the postseason wins just weren't there. Oconomowoc made the TCNL playoffs for the first time since 2006 but were edged 4-3. The June SWABA tournament ended with a close loss to highly ranked Verona, and the LOL ended with the crusher in West Bend.

But in the aftermath of Sunday's defeat in West Bend, it wasn't the near-misses that were on the mind of this writer. It was the effort. I thought of the game against Verona where Derek Nelson came thundering in on a fly ball he had no business catching, stretching out, making the catch... and having it denied on an umpire's call. I saw Bob Bolson, in that must-win game at West Bend charging on a fly ball, making the play, tearing his ACL and breaking a bone as he fell... and still reaching for the ball to throw it into the infield and save a run. Surgery could wait until the lead runner was held at third. And at the same field in August, I saw the face of a determined Luke Nelson, who'd pitched just a handful of innings all year, his pitch count now clearing 100, pushing his way through one missed called strike that should have ended the game, another bloop hit that extended it and continuing to dig deep trying to will his team to that third out that just never quite came.

And as I drove home, I thought of the words NBA analyst Charles Barkley used after Game 4 of the NBA Finals to describe a heroic effortby Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook-"that boy competed."

Three simple words that define what the essence of sports is about. Westbrook's game had been in a losing effort and there was no more consoling him with Barkley's words than there would have been anyone in the Oconomowoc dugout on the late afternoon of August 12th. But for those of us who were fortunate enough to watch that day and throughout the season, they should always be more than enough. Indeed, those boys competed.

The competitive effort put forth by Oconomowoc throughout the season is just one part of what makes the Land O'Lakes League special. I've lived in Pittsburgh & Baltimore the past 13 years, the latter four of which were in the immediate neighborhood of Cal Ripken's extensive amateur baseball operation, and still have seen nothing like the LOL and what it offers in terms of competitive baseball, continuity and tradition and enduring rivalries.

It's not just those boys that competed. It's everyone who makes the league run, from the dedicated people who run the concession stands and scoreboard, to the managers who give extensive time and yes, to the umpires. And while those inside Five-O's Nation know the season ended with some acrimony towards the league office over decisions regarding the postseason schedule, we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the dedication of the hierarchy in making the Land O'Lakes League run.

From the classy veterans at Lannon to the up-and-comers at Menomonee Falls, to the lively fans in places like Hartland and North Lake, and to the unique people of Pewaukee who give the Midwest the closest thing they'll ever see to the Philadelphia sports fan, it all weaves together to make the Land O'Lakes League a unique slice of Americana. Everyone who put it together, in their own way, competed. And we'll see you next April.

12 Inning Heartbreaker For Oconomowoc
By Dan Flaherty

Imagine if you will, the last day of the 2011 major league baseball regular season (when Tampa Bay & St. Louis had wild finishes to get improbable playoff berths). Imagine Game 6 of the ensuing World Series. Then imagine the 49ers-Saints playoff game in January. Even if you've got all those epic games uppermost in your mind, I can still say without hyperbole that West Bend's 12-11 win over Oconomowoc in Sunday's LOL West first-round game was a million times better than all three of them put together.

The game was part of the LOL's Brunch Special, with an 11:00 AM start time, since the winner would have to play a semi-final game immediately after, as noted in the reports below. West Bend looked like they might turn it into a buffet feast, scoring four runs in the top of the first. When Oconomowoc lost three runners on the bases in the ensuing three innings there was nothing to suggest a remarkable game, and even less to suggest Oconomowoc would feel regrets afterward.

But Five-O's starting pitcher Chris Fischer settled in quickly and it wasn't until the sixth inning that West Bend got another hit. And on Oconomowoc's second time through the order, they began to make some headway at the plate. Luke Nelson doubled and Derek Nelson doubled him home. A.J. Ramirez doubled to center and Nate Osterndorf tripled to right. Josh Bouche had a hard grounder to first that was misplayed into an error, but would have brought Osterndorf home in either case. By the time the dust settled it was 4-4, and it stayed that way until the seventh when West Bend scraped over a run to take a 5-4 lead.

Oconomowoc fought back in the eighth. Jeff Rhoads worked a walk and then Ramirez and Osterndorf hit consecutive doubles. The game went to the ninth with Oconomowoc up 6-5. West Bend was able to tie it up and then loaded the bases with two out. At this point a weak grounder was hit past the mound, one that seemed a lock to be an infield hit that would end the game. Bouche, at first base, and Luke Nelson off the mound, executed the play perfectly to get the out by a half-step and the O's were still alive.

With two outs and a man aboard, Steve Rhoads came to the plate. Some of us have been around long enough to remember 1991 when he hit a dead-red home run to win a tournament game in extra innings. He connected on one here that looked like it might do the same, as the ball rocketed towards the centerfield fence. It came just short of getting out, but brought home the lead run and more importantly ended Steve's 21-year wait for a hit with runners in scoring position. Then Brett Marshall delivered an opposite-field single that made the score 8-6, the same score by which Oconomowoc had won another epic game here back in June.

The 10th wouldn't end the game though, as West Bend got down to its last strike with runners on first and second. A beautiful breaking pitch by Nelson looked to all the world like a called third strike that should have ended the game. To all but the one opinion that mattered, behind home plate. Given a second chance, West Bend delivered a base hit. On a full count, both runners were going with the pitch and were able to tie the game. Once again, the 7-Up were in position to not only rally, but win and again Oconomowoc was able to get the third out and push the game along.

Ramirez bounced a single through the middle in the top of the eleventh to bring a run home. West Bend countered with one in the bottom of the eleventh when a flair to right found open space. Normally this inning alone would be a source of major drama. In light of everything else that happened Sunday, the 11th almost seems like a footnote.

One more time, the O's came to the plate and loaded the bases with two outs. Derek Nelson and Ramirez worked walks to make the score 11-9. West Bend came back. Luke Nelson, battling to the end, went over 110 pitches in what was his third appearance of a year marred by hamstring problems, appeared to have the leadoff man struck out not once, but twice. Both times the pitch was called a ball. Two runners were aboard with two outs. The cleanup hitter for West Bend ended the drama with a two-out, opposite-field home run to left-center and after four hours, the drama was finally over, 12-11.

I know it sounds trite, but it truly was a baseball game that was a credit to all who played it on both sides. While I've made note of some questionable calls that hurt Oconomowoc, including one that should have ended the game, I'm sure a partisan West Bend writer could come up with a few examples of their own. Both teams had numerous chances to fold their tent and call it a day. Neither did.

In retrospect the first batter of the day was a sign of things to come. Chandler Ziemann's leadoff at-bat was a 10-pitch battle, neither hitter nor pitcher willing to give in. If ever a baseball game had a keynote speech, this was it.

Congratulations to West Bend, as well as the other semi-finalists, Brookfield, Pewaukee and Menomonee Falls, who all began play sometime after the Brunch Special turned Early Dinner Marquee finished. And congratulations to the Five-O's on the 2012 season. When they visited West Bend on June 22, the season was on the verge of slipping away after a series of blowout losses. They won that night, turned the season around and then played a playoff game for the ages back at the scene where the turnaround began.

Final 123456789101112   R H E
Five Os 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 2 0 2 1 2   11 17 2
West Bend 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 1 3   12 16 0
    box score
Season Stats

Falls Takes O's. Sussex Grabs Final Playoff Spot From Merton
By Dan Flaherty

The Oconomowoc Five-O's may have concluded the Land O'Lakes League regular season on a down note Saturday, losing 4-3 to Menomonee Falls, but the good news is that they won't have to wait long to try and take revenge.The O's are scheduled to meet Falls in the first round of the playoffs this coming Saturday. It calls to mind a regular season/playoff rematch scenario that occurred in 1993 when the Green Bay Packers played the Detroit Lions in consecutive weeks. The O's will try and repeat the Packers' feat of rebounding from a regular season loss with a playoff win.

Falls got off to a quick start, with one run walked in with the bases loaded and building a 3-0 lead after three innings. Oconomowoc starting pitcher Chris Fischer settled in and didn't allow another hit until the seventh, but Falls hurler Jack Larson was dazzling. With good velocity on his fastball, a nasty slider and consistently around the plate, mounting a rally was more than challenging.

Oconomowoc broke through in the fifth when Luke Nelson delivered a two-out single to right, but the score remained 3-1 through eight and Falls then tacked on what would prove to be a huge insurance run in the ninth.

The O's had two outs and a man on second, when Nate Osterndorf and Andrew Bauer got aboard, cutting the margin to 4-2 and bringing up leadoff hitter Chandler Ziemann. He hit a line drive into the right-centerfield gap that had a tail on it, moving away from the center fielder, whose dive couldn't get there. Ostendorf scored, but Bauer had to be held at third. It was the third hit of the day for Ziemann, the one hitter who had consistent success against Larson. "I can only carry this lineup so far," Ziemann lamented after the game. "I swear there's drug mules out there who carried lighter loads than I did today." **

Larson was able to get the final out and finish off a 130-pitch complete-game effort that ensured Oconomowoc would open the playoffs on the road. On Sunday, Falls fell to Pewaukee, which set up the rematch in the 4 vs. 5 spot in the playoff bracket.

The storylines abound for the coming playoffs. Merton came oh-so-close to its first playoff berth, but fell at Lannon on Friday and dropped an 11-inning heartbreaker to West Bend on Saturday. That opened the door for Sussex who beat North Lake and then nearly looked a gift horse in the mouth with a narrow escape over Monches. The win earned Sussex the 6-seed and will get them a trip to Pewaukee on Saturday.

West Bend's win over Merton got them the coveted first-place finish, meaning if they don't win the tournament, they get a bounce-back game against the tournament winner to decide the ultimate LOL Western Division champion. The Brookfield Bulldogs are slotted in the #2 position, giving them a bye into Sunday's semi-finals, but no bounce-back opportunity.

It's been a balanced year in the LOL West, and Oconomowoc's season is proof of that. The O's turned their season around on June 22 with a win at West Bend, but went 0-3 against Falls & Pewaukee. The "any given Sunday" cliché is not only true for the NFL, it's true for the Western Division and that promises an exciting postseason.

The Five-O's first-round game with Falls is at 1:00 PM. If Oconomowoc can beat Falls they will travel to West Bend on Sunday if Pewaukee beats Sussex. If Pewaukee falls to Sussex, then Oconomowoc will travel to Brookfield on Sunday if they can beat Falls. The tournament final would then be Saturday, August 18. The only way Oconomowoc could be at home is if Sussex is the opponent. The O's would then look to complete their championship run on Sunday the 19th, back at West Bend.

So the playoffs start in Falls, but the road to the pennant goes through West Bend. When asked about his August plans, Steve Rhoads said "I plan on spending a lot of time up north." Some say he meant camping. Others think he means the hour-drive north to West Bend.

** We should note Chandler didn't actually say this with words, but he might have thought them. 21st century journalism standards allow direct attribution in these situations.

Final 123456789   R H E
Menomonee Falls 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1   4 7 1
Five Os 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2   3 8 3
    box score
Season Stats

A Dying Dynasty? Not Quite Yet
By Dan Flaherty

All great dynastic runs must come to an end eventually. So the history books teach us. After all, the House of Savoy ruled Italy for over a hundred years and into the 20th century before a popular referendum led to its demise after World War II. England was governed by the House of Tudor and the infamous Henry VIII for a century-plus before the lack of an heir spelled its doom. Closer to home, the Bush-Clinton rule of American politics when Barack upended Hillary in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Given that, can't we expect that the Five-O's dynasty-or as it's known in historical parlance, the House of Bender, Schlosser & Rhoads-should also finally gaveway to new blood.

The end of the 2011 regular season looked to be that time. Oconomowoc was 7-9 and needed to sweep its final two games, plus get some help in order to make the playoffs. They pulled it off and even though a first-round exit at the hands of Lannon awaited, the claim for a continuing dynastic run still exists.

Nonetheless, the rebels have smelled blood and now the O's will have to prove themselves again in 2012. To that end, Rob Becker, a key part of the 2007 Grand Championship team, has been summoned from retirement and is ready to pitch again. This past weekend in Ixonia, Becker took the mound, and with his breaking stuff moving and his location sound, the hurler looked ready to step right into regular season action against Land O'Lakes competition.

Steve Rhoads followed Becker on the mound. There are critics who say that the game has passed Rhoads, who turns 42 in June, by. There are those who say he's not in top condition. There are those who say that his growing family has him distracted... you know I could swear I had some overarching point when I began this paragraph. Oh, yes-what the critics didn't count on was him tossing a couple innings of scoreless ball himself with a ball dancing so thoroughly that Gaylord Perry had to have been smiling.

Then it was Luke Nelson's turn on the mound and there was nothing subtle about the approach here. Straight gas and nasty breaking stuff left Ixonia's hitter looking helpless and put the finishing touches on a 6-0 win that helped get everyone feeling good about the impending season. Offensively, the Five-O's bats gained steam on the second time through the batting order, with several balls hit hard in the latter frames of the seven-inning game, including a line shot by Nelson that was positively crushed, until a great defensive play turned it into an out. Between Luke Nelson, player-manager Jeff Rhoads, Derek Nelson, there will be punch in the offense. It's going to be up to the pitching to see if Oconomowoc can not only ward off the up-and-comers nipping at their heels, but to again provide a credible challenge to traditional power Lannon, as well as Brookfield, the team who won the West and then the Grand Championship a year ago.

The LOL season begins anew at Roosevelt Field on Sunday. Those that say all dynasties come to an end eventually might be reminded of a few other historical examples. Harry Truman, heir to the FDR dynasty, beat back a too-cocky Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election. Josef Stalin derisively said "How many divisions does the pope have?", at the height of the Cold War, only to see his successors watch John Paul II march triumphantly through a free Eastern Europe. And who can forget Moe Green in The Godfather proclaiming to Michael Corleone "You're all done. The Corleone Family doesn't have that kind of muscle anymore." Dewey lost an election. Stalin lost an empire. Greene took a bullet in the eye. That's what happens when you call an end to a dynasty prematurely. The end of last year showed the Five-O's aren't ready to go quietly into the night just yet, and with returning reinforcements, optimism abounds for 2012.

Dan Flaherty runs The Sports Notebook - a website devoted to sports commentary

Derek is Cooney's full Nelson
by Chuck Delsman - Published in the Oconomowoc Focus (June 22, 2011)
For the past 12 years, the Oconomowoc Land O'Lakes Western Division baseball team has been the winningest franchise in the league. Year after year, the Five O's are as competitive as any team in the 12-team circuit Read More

Bolson knows the game, his role
by Chuck Delsman - Published in the Oconomowoc Focus (July 21, 2010)
Bob Bolson's dedication to the Oconomowoc Five O's is unmatched, at least in terms of mileage. While many players drive 5 or 10 minutes to get to the games, Bolson has to drive three hours one way. He works and lives in Naperville, Ill. Read More

Facebook Members, Become a Fan of the Five O's Facebook Page

Gunnar's Self-Directed Film Takes First at Sundance
Gunnar Kroseberg's first endeavor into the film making industry has apparently been a success. His self-directed short film titled "A Fine Day For A Smoke", swept through Sundance taking all awards in the short-film category and many awards in other categories it should not have even been eligible for, including "Best Foreign Film". Although Gunnar's first film, critics are already comparing him to the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg (no relation) and George Lucas. The whirlwind of praise this film has received has also gotten the attention of Hollywood studios. Paramount Pictures has offered Kroseberg a six picture deal and Universal Pictures is working on a larger offer. Rumors are out that stars such as Johnny Depp and Julia Roberts have offered to work for free to land a role in a "Kroseberg Productions" film.
Staying true to his roots, Kroseberg will most likely stick to small, independent, silent films about smoking.

2007 Grand Champion T-Shirts Available
Now you can own one of the t-shirts commemorating the 2007 Land O' Lakes Grand Championship title. Check out the new merchandise page to view them along with hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts and more.

Five Os Fishery a Huge Success
The Five Os would like to thank everyone who attended and helped out at the 1st Annual Five O's Fishery. We had nice weather, nice fish and nice beer. The winning fish were a 33 1/2" Northern and a 10 1/2" Perch. Another highlight of the day was Jamma's State Record Miller Bass (seen left). Special thanks goes out to DaleyDorf's German Bar, The Next Bar, ABEE Ink, Pat's Heating & Cooling and Cornerstone Pub for hosting and sponsoring the event. We hope to see everyone there again next year.

Eppler Celebrates Death of Barbaro, Draws Suspicion
1/29/2007 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized early Monday morning at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square. The sad ending to the great horse's story came after a series of setbacks following a devastating leg injury allegedly caused by Five O's outfielder Mike Eppler. Eppler, already tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, has somehow avoided any real criminal charges in the matter, thanks to a series of back-alley deals brokered by his father Earl. Eppler to this day denies any wrong-doing, despite strong photographic evidence suggesting otherwise. Full Story

Related Story: Eppler Wins Preakness – ON FOOT!

Eppler Wins Preakness – ON FOOT!
In perhaps the most bizarre incident in the history of horseracing, Oconomowoc Five Os outfielder Mike Eppler won Saturday's Preakness Stakes, finishing the final mile of the 1 and 3/16 mile race on foot. (click for full story)

2005 Heisman Trophy Goes To Eppler
In what can only be classified as a shocking turn of events, the 2005 Heisman Trophy has been awarded to USC quarterback and Five Os outfielder Mike Eppler. After Reggie Bush appeared to win in a landslide at Saturday's Heisman Presentation Ceremony, Mike Eppler, who was not initially listed as a finalist, demanded a recount of Heisman votes. The ceremony was held for a second time Monday evening, at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City. This time, the sports world was turned on its ear, as Mike Eppler won (click for full story)

President Bush Appoints Eppler Historic Seat At U.N.
The political world was shaken yesterday by news coming out of Washington. Under heavy pressure from President Bush, this emerging dynasty was granted a vote on the elite Security Council. It was little doubt which member of the Five Os will hold this historic post: none other than Mike Eppler. (click for full story)

Record NFL Deal Makes Eppler Two-Sport Star
Only two weeks removed from the 2005 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers shocked many NFL observers on Monday by cutting first overall pick Alex Smith, and signing undrafted rookie free agent and Five Os outfielder Mike Eppler to a 9 year, $227 million contract. (click for full story)

Eppler Raises Eyebrows in Congressional Steroid Probe
Following his March 16th subpoena to appear before the Government Reform Committee, Oconomowoc Five Os outfielder Mike Eppler made certain his appearance on Capital Hill would be a memorable one. (click for full story)
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Eppler Celebrates Death of Barbaro, Draws Suspicion
Eppler Wins Preakness – ON FOOT!
2005 Heisman Trophy Goes To Eppler
President Bush Appoints Eppler Historic Seat At U.N.
Record NFL Deal Makes Eppler Two-Sport Star
Eppler Raises Eyebrows in Congressional Steroid Probe
Eppler selected #1 overall in 2003 MLB draft
Five Os outfielder makes national news
Oconomowoc Five Os outfield Erik Olson has made national headlines with the conclusion of his 11 year thesis to complete his medical doctorate from Yale. Many know Erik from his extensive electrical work in south-eastern Wisconsin including all electrical work in Miller Park, but few people were aware of his medical background nor how significant his research would be. What started as a simple thesis, ended up becoming the single most important medical discovery since the dawn of time.
This Wall Street Journal front page from last week sums up his historic accomplishment.

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