By Dan Flaherty
It was the bottom of the eighth inning at Watertown's Washington Park and the evening was not going well. Those of us in the Oconomowoc Five-O's entourage-a group of about five to be precise, were congregated near the concession stand, avoiding the rain that had started in the middle of the Five-O's Wednesday night Tri-County League Game against Kewaskum. The O's trailed 9-0 and had mustered only two hits. If this were boxing, it would have been called by TKO long ago.
In a week that's seen the Los Angeles Clippers rally from 27 down in the fourth quarter to win an NBA playoff game, and in a baseball season that's seen the Yankees turn a 9-0 deficit around in Boston in the matter of two innings, maybe we shouldn't have written off Oconomowoc off so quickly. Because what happened next is positively stunning-the Five-O's hung ten runs on the board, grabbed the lead and then squelched a final Kewaskaum rivalry to secure an improbable 10-9 win.
Kewaskaum got the first out of the eighth inning. The second out wouldn't come until 14 more hitters had come to the plate. While the Five-O's got some help-an error, a hit batsmen and three walks where few of the pitches were even close-they were also a sequence of high-quality at-bats and hard hit balls. Derek Nelson, whose screaming line drive out to center earlier in the game had been shaping up to be the high point of the night, delivered an RBI single. Steve Rhoads, who'd come in to pitch the eighth, had another. And no hit was bigger than Nate Oz's bases-loaded double that brought in two runs. And the lead could easily have been larger, but for an inning-ending bases-loaded double play.
Rhoads went back to the mound in the ninth, retired the first two hitters and then appeared to have the game won before an error at second base gave Kewaskum new life. A stolen base, a walk and a steal of third had the tension back in the wet Wednesday night air. The game's final batter made decent contact, and off the bat it seemed scary-but the crack was louder than the actual hit and it ended in a fairly routine flyout to center.
Its fortunate baseball doesn't settle its winners like boxing. Because any judge, without the benefit of a scoreboard, would've graded this 8-1 to Kewaskum. But Oconomowoc made their one "inning win" count and started the Tri-County Night League off on a winning note.
On a more somber note, the Five-O's received word that Rob Becker, winning pitcher in Sunday's Land O'Lakes opener against Monches, suffered a serious muscle tear in the process. His season, and likely his baseball career, at age 38 are over. Becker has been a noble soldier for the Five-O's for a long time. As a vital part of the 1999 and 2007 Grand Championship teams he has his own special niche in the heritage of one of the LOL West' s most accomplished teams. We all hope he recovers soon and now the search is under way for the next generation of arms ready to take their place in Five-O's lore.