By Dan Flaherty
The Oconomowoc Five-O's season opener for the 2012 Land O'Lakes schedule was dubbed "The Crossroads Game." We noted here in this space last week how it's being speculated that the Five-O's are an aging dynasty and ready to topple out of the playoffs. Believer of this theory would undoubtedly have the Monches Irish circled as the team ready to move into the breach-the Irish are young, talented and buoyed by the increasing revenue streams from their recent new ballpark, and have just narrowly missed the postseason the past few years. Would this be a game of two teams at the crossroads? In the words of a well-known announcer, "Not so fast my friend."
Rob Becker took the ball for Oconomowoc, fresh off a week long excursion in Las Vegas-we made every effort to let a blow-by-blow recount of his vacation take the place of a game writeup here today, but it turns out that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. He was opposed by Eric Van Beck, a good young pitcher from UW-Stevens Point. But Van Beck struggled with his control in the first inning and the Five-O's took advantage of his wildness to grab a 1-0 lead and have the bases loaded with two outs.
Right fielder Josh Fenzl then stepped to the plate. Even though the first run of the season had already crossed, no one had a hit yet. Prior to the game, Josh's father Lee, who passed away this offseason, was honored with a moment of silent prayer. It was surely appropriate then, that the first Oconomowoc hit of 2012 came when Josh took a pitch that got up in the strike zone and ripped a clean line drive to right field, scoring two runs and giving Oconomowoc a 3-0 lead.
Fenzl's hit loomed larger as the game went on, because Van Beck got settled in and the game turned into a pitcher's duel. Becker was in control through five innings, and then the sixth brought some nervous moments. After a walk to Karl Sprung to lead off the inning, third baseman Jeff Rhoads channeled his inner Brooks Robinson and speared a line drive that had double written all over it. A wild pitch and single got the Irish on the board, but Becker got a clutch strikeout of Uncle Buck Konkel (I really don't know if Buck's name is "Uncle Buck" but I wanted to get one Chris Berman-esque reference into this story). Another line drive followed, but it landed in Jeff Rhoads' glove and the inning concluded with the lead still safe at 3-1.
The eighth inning was the decisive frame. After a leadoff walk, Becker departed to a standing ovation, having giving a quality 103-pitch effort and putting his team in position to win a pitcher's duel. Luke Nelson came in, but a soft single and a bunt where confusion left first base uncovered left the bases loaded with no one out. The time for Monches to send a message that a new era was starting was at hand. But Uncle Buck hit a bouncer back to the mound that Nelson speared and got the force out at home. Then Nelson induced a grounder to second that Chandler Ziemann flipped to Jeff Rhoads, now playing short, who fired to first, where Derek Nelson did his best impersonation of the early 1980s Cecil Cooper to stretch and make sure the double play was complete.
Oconomowoc came to the plate and opened up offensively. Ziemann led off with a single, and Luke Nelson followed with another. With one out, Derek Nelson followed his defensive heroics with some clutch hitting, delivering an RBI single that looked to be critical insurance. Little did we know that more insurance was on the way. A hit batsmen, five more singles and Monches' defensive insistence and giving out free bases by fruitless throws home, all added up to produce a 9-1 lead, and that's where it ended.
This weekend marked the start of the NBA playoffs, where it's often noted that veterans prevail, while youth learns its lessons. The same phenomena went down at Roosevelt Field on Sunday, as the Five-O vets showed they aren't ready to go quietly into the night.
Oconomowoc will play a Tri-County night league game in Watertown on Wednesday night, and next Sunday's LOL West game will be at Roosevelt Field against North Lake at 1:00 PM. We are seeking to confirm rumors that it will be Steve Rhoads Bobblehead Day at Roosevelt.