Menomonee Falls - He may be listed as the fourth starter on the Menomonee Falls' baseball team's pitching rotation, but sophomore Tommy Wolf was the ace the Indians needed on June 18, as he stymied hot-hitting host Oak Creek on just one hit in a critical, 4-0, Greater Metro Conference decision.
"I thought, in my opinion, that I was put in a tough position," Wolf said, "so I tried to play it like a normal game. I just threw strikes and let my defense help me."
Indians coach Pat Hansen was ecstatic over the exceptionally clean effort the Indians turned in as they took sole possession of first in GMC play.
And Falls followed that up with three more impressive GMC wins over Sussex Hamilton (5-1 on June 19), Brookfield Central (11-1 on June 21) and Muskego (9-4 on June 22) that cemented their hold on the league with a 14-2 mark (20-2 overall).
"That is what I call playoff baseball," he told the team in the dimming light at Oak Creek's Abendschein Field. "You play good defense and pitch well, commit zero errors, good things usually happen.
"And this should be a lesson to our entire staff. Get ahead in the count and let your defense make plays. Just a flawless game from that respect."
Oak Creek coach Scott Holler, whose team had pulled into a tie with Falls on June 13 with a 6-4 decision at Trenary (Falls' home field), was impressed by Wolf's calm under fire (five strikeouts and two walks) but was also puzzled by his team's lack of aggressiveness at the plate.
"Quality at bats just weren't there tonight," he said. "It seemed that we let a lot of fastballs go by early in the count. Then he (Wolf) would drop an off-speed pitch in there for a strike. Then he would lock us up with a fastball again.
"It happens, you get days like this sometimes but I wasn't expecting a lackluster effort against a good team like Falls."
Falls seized the lead for good in the second on designated hitter Troy Kenkel's RBI double. Kenkel would finish the night with three hits including two doubles.
Head's up play
Justin Johnson scored Falls' second run in the third as he took off like a shot from third for home on an overthrow from the Oak Creek catcher back to pitcher Brad Schulte. He easily beat the throw home.
"That was just great head's up base running," Hansen said. "He did not hesitate and took off immediately."
And though the Indians would leave a combined total of six base runners on in the second through fourth innings combined, Wolf never faltered. He picked off his second Knights runner in the third. That was the inning Oak Creek got its only hit, a bleeder single up the middle by outfielder Dakota Slone.
No one reached second base for Oak Creek all night.
Falls got insurance in the seventh, when with two out, Joel Zyhowski poked a single to left and then shortstop Brett Krause blasted a booming two-run home run to left against a harsh southerly 30-mile-per-hour wind.
"We had a base running mistake (earlier in the inning), but we stayed in the game," Hansen said. "Joel gets a hit and then Brett hits a bomb. ... That was huge. They're thinking that they probably could get back into the game and tie it if they get the third out, but then that (home run) totally deflated them."
Wolf admitted that he started breathing a little easier after the blast.
"Yeah, it did a lot," he said. "I felt a lot more comfortable (laughs). ... I really felt good today. My off-speed stuff was really working well. I don't have the strongest fastball in the world, so getting my breaking ball over was big."
Krause took over in the bottom of the seventh and set the top of the Knights order down one-two-three.
"I really like him (Krause)," Holler said. "Just a really nice ballplayer. Going into that at-bat, even with a runner on, I was thinking about whether we should walk him or not."
Meanwhile, Falls prepares to move on.
"We didn't accomplish anything tonight except earn a very nice win," Hansen said. "It was a real good win but now we have to keep the ball rolling."
Falls 9, Muskego 4: A seven-run fourth, keyed by Johnson's three-run double as the Indians won their seventh game in a row and 12th out of their last 13. Muskego, which had beaten Falls, 3-1, on June 4 had gone into the inning with a 2-1 edge. Before Johnson's hit, the first five Indians batters had reached and the score was 4-2.
Krause (4 2/3 innings, three strikeout and five walks) got the win with relief help from Paul Fitzgerald and Brian Schmit. Kenkel had three hits and three runs scored.
"Justin (Johnson) is just the consummate team player," Hansen said. "He's not worried about his stats or how much he's playing. Hitting out of the two hole (second) he's asked to do a lot of selfless things (bunt, move runners over) and he does them, so for him to get a three-run double like that is just good things happening to good people."
Falls 11, Brookfield Central 1: The Indians scored three runs in each of the first three innings and Brendan Paule pitched five innings of four-hit, two-strikeout and no-walk ball for the win. Krause remained hot as he had three hits, scored three runs and had three RBIs. Cole Hernikl had four stolen bases out of his leadoff spot.
"Brendan had a very nice game," Hansen said. "He's not overpowering, but he gets the job done."
Falls 5, Sussex Hamilton 1: Hansen called this immediate follow-up to the Oak Creek game "critical" as the Indians broke a 1-1 tie with a four-run fifth as Zyhowski had the go-ahead hit and Krause belted a two-run double.
That was enough for Kenkel, who scattered four hits with eight strikeouts and two walks. Hansen called his effort "dominating" as the only run the Chargers picked up was an unearned tally in the first.
The end of the regular season is coming up quick. Falls played West Allis Hale (8-8, 11-10) on Monday, West Allis Central (3-13, 3-18) on Tuesday, visits two-time state champion Franklin (9-7, 12-8) at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, hosts nonconference foe Greendale at 11 a.m. Saturday and closes the GMC regular season at 5:30 p.m. July 2 against Marquette (6-10, 9-11). The GMC Tournament runs July 3, 5-6. Before that, Kenkel plays for the east team in the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches' Association All-Star Classic, on Friday and Saturday in Oshkosh.
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