By Dan Flaherty
It was another tough one-run loss for the Oconomowoc Five-O's on Wednesday night in Horicon, as a late rally by the O's came up just short in a 4-3 loss.
It took three innings for any offensive action to start, as Derek Nelson cruised through and Horicon's starter Cory Tjader, who was unofficially throwing somewhere in the 85 mph range throughout the night with good location was in complete command. Oconomowoc capitalized on an infield hit from Chris Fischer and a base hit to right by Nate Osterndorf to get the game's first run in the top of the fourth. But Horicon came right back in the bottom of the inning. They only mustered one cleanly hit ball against Nelson, but that one hit coupled with an infield chopper hit and a bloop single to right, along with a couple wild pitches to create three runs.
The bottom of the fifth was a mix of frustration and brilliance for the Oconomowoc defense. After first giving up a run thanks to a walk, an error and two wild pitches, they avoided further damaged when second baseman Chandler Ziemann cut down on a runner at the plate on a ground ball and then first baseman Josh Bouche made an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch down the right field line in foul territory to get the third out.
Trailing 4-1 after five wasn't the problem, as Oconomowoc pitching, led by Kevin Kadunc settled in and Horicon didn't score again. The problem was getting something going against a pitcher who was locked in. Finally an interesting seventh inning changed the game. With a man aboard Ziemann lifted a fly ball to centerfield. The outfielder reached for the ball, appeared to catch it, but it flipped out of his glove as he lifted his arm up. The play was ruled no catch. Horicon went ballistic and one player dropped a string of profanity loud enough to hear across the park and into the neighborhood. This was made all the more ironic, because a post-game conversationwith a longtime Horicon watcher revealed that most of the players on the team go to a Lutheran prep school and are in training to be ministers. The rightfielder, ejected from the game, was apparently one of the outsiders. Ned Flanders, meet Bob Knight.
Bouche came to the plate and laced a line drive to leftfield that landed inside the foul line and its slicing trajectory pulled it along way into foul territory. Both runs scored and Bouche ended up on third base with no outs. But he couldn't make it in with the tying run.
Still, the score was 4-3 and because Horicon had started the game with only nine players they were now short an outfielder and the batting spot held by the ejected player would be an automatic out. Perhaps it was appropriate that on the night the Stanley Cup Finals opened, Oconomowoc would be on the power play for the final two innings.
But just like a great goalie can kill a penalty, so too can a great pitcher and the final six batters for Oconomowoc were retired without incident. The 4-3 loss was the continuance of a frustrating stretch for the O's, whose three losses this year have all been by a single run. Perhaps the friendly confines of Roosevelt Field, which Oconomowoc will return to for the first time since the April 29 opener against Monches, will have a rejuvenating effect. Come on out to the park on Sunday at 1 PM to watch the O's play an undefeated West Bend 7-Up team. For those of us who like the O's and like Sierra Mist, this is the ultimate rivalry game.