By Dan Flaherty
For the first several games of the 2012 season the Oconomowoc Five-O's had been destiny's darlings. If it wasn't dropping 10 runs in a single inning to wipe out a 9-0 deficit, it was a ninth-inning run to win 4-3 or a five-run frame in the ninth to win 15-10. Finally the O's pushing of the limit caught up and on Sunday destiny died at third base in a 9-8 loss to Pewaukee that left them 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the Land O'Lakes Western Division.
The wind was cutting briskly across the park in Pewaukee ona day when rain loomed, but didn't come until well after the final pitch. Oconomowoc put together a rally in the second - a double by Nate Osterdorf and a walk by Steve Rhoads to start the inning. Then Josh Bouche ripped a line drive towards right field but saw it speared in the air on a leaping catch by the second baseman. I can say without any sense of hyperbole that it was the most emotionally devastating line drive out to second since Willie McCovey did it to end Game 7 of the 1962 World Series with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Although in this case, things did work out. With two outs, Bob Bolson got a 1-2 pitch out in the strike zone and looped it into right field to bring home the game's first run. After a walk, Luke Nelson bounced a single to center and both runners came around to make it 3-0.
Five-O's starter Chris Fischer was settled in and pounding the strike zone and even when Pewaukee got a run back in the third, the outlook for the game looked good, but a good Muskies lineup was able to start getting a string of quality at-bats. Aided by two errors they first got one run and then their own two-run single to center to take a 4-3 lead. Oconomowoc quickly tied it after Chandler Ziemann singled to left, Luke Nelson drew a walk and Jeff Rhoads took a two-strike pitch and slapped it the other way for the game-tying single. But the Pewaukee offense got two straight two-out hits and built the lead back to 7-4.
Oconomowoc remained resilient and the game's back-and-forth middle innings continued in the top of the sixth when Steve Rhoads ripped a long drive to right-center that just missed getting out and got him a double. Bouche then followed with a drive of his own that didn't come back. It was now 7-6 and Fischer set down Pewaukee in the sixth to hold the score there.
The next two innings had the feel of getting scab picked at if you were in O's fan--it didn't hurt, but it was annoying as hell. Pewaukee turned two singles into a run thanks to the aid of wild pitch. In the bottom of the eighth, the Muskies threatened to blow it open, with two lead off hits, but one runner was lost on the basepaths and a subsequent double only scored one run. But at 9-6, that one run would be of enormous import.
In the ninth, Jeff Rhoads and Nate Osterdorf each reached on errors, sandwiched around Derek Nelson's double to right. Suddenly the score was 9-7 and there were runners on first and third. The Pewaukee crowd-it's usual sizeable self, by the time you factor in an interested fan base, plus their designated drivers-was nervous and agitated. The same sense of destiny that surrounded Tim Tebow's Denver Broncos last fall was in the air. Steve Rhoads came to the plate. On a day when LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were combining for 70 points in a must-win spot, the eyes of the sports world were now on Pewaukee's Village Park. And when Rhoads snuck a single through the right side to make it 9-8 and send Osterdorf to third with the tying run, the sense of destiny was very much alive. Bouche, the man who'd hit the home run and the line drive that wasn't, was at the plate.
Bouche didn't disappoint with a hard line drive to center field. Paradoxically it proved to be too hard and too straight, and the center fielder was able to close on it and prevent a tag-up. The count went full on the next two batters, but each ended in a strikeout and destiny had died at third base.
While the loss was disappointing, the Five-O's resilience continues to speak well for the chances at a special season, and Fischer's consistency around the strike zone will win more often than not. Give credit to Pewaukee for a good game, while Oconomowoc will be set to regroup on Wednesday, with a Tri-County Night League game at Johnson Creek, and then a Land O'Lakes game next Sunday at Merton.