Oconomowoc baseball heads back to state
It’s been more than a decade, but the Oconomowoc baseball team is headed back to the Fox Cities.
The No. 4 seed Oconomowoc baseball team (17-11) pulled off a pair of upsets Tuesday, defeating the top seed Janesville Craig, 4-1, and No.-3 seed Madison La Follette, 3-2, to earn a trip to the state tournament in Appleton for the first time since 2001.
The Raccoons will take on Stevens Point at Fox Cities Stadium at 1 p.m. Tuesday in a state quarterfinal game.
Playing at Pohlman Field in Beloit, the Raccoons showed an aggressive approach early at the plate in the sectional final game against Madison LaFollette, scoring three runs on four hits in the first inning to back a strong outing by junior pitcher Lucas Filbert.
“We just wanted our pitchers to keep the ball down in the strike zone and limit the number of base runners,” head coach Arno Kirchenwitz said.
Filbert didn’t allow a hit through the first three innings, but a pair of walks in each of the first two frames kept things interesting.
“(Filbert) was changing speeds enough but the problem was the first couple innings,” Kirchenwitz said. “Sometimes that bites you in the rear end. Finally they got two at the end there but we were fortunate. Sometimes you don’t get away with it. He hung tough. He’s been hanging tough all year.”
Filbert pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and six walks to go along with seven strikeouts.
Oconomowoc held a 3-0 advantage through five full innings when the Lancers would finally get to Filbert. The Lancers scored two runs in the sixth inning, but sophomore Josh Hottinger stranded the bases loaded.
The Raccoons could not scratch any insurance runs across in the top of the seventh. Hottinger came back out to the mound to close out the game and found himself in some early trouble after walking the first two batters.
Hottinger would then retire the next three Lancers in order, including a strikeout to finish the game, stranding the tying run at third and the winning run at second.
“Hottinger came in there and he got the save and he did a heck of a job for a sophomore,” Kirchenwitz said. “He’s only 16-years-old but he sucked it up.
“We’ve been talking about this for the last part of the year. We wanted to play as consistent as we could, take one opponent at a time and this is nice, this is nice. We’re going to go up to Appleton and take it one game at a time up there.”
Hottinger threw 1 1/3 innings, allowing no hits and two walks while striking out one.
At the plate, Oconomowoc pounded out eight hits. Senior designated hitter Tyler Christensen went 2 for 3 with a run and RBI. Junior Peyton Williams also went 2 for 3 for the Raccoons. Seniors Matt Klink and Marshall Davy each contributed an RBI.
“We haven’t been taking any short cuts,” Kirchenwitz said. “We talked about this since day one that this is what we shoot for at the end of the year. You have to have some luck and have to be fortunate enough. Our kids made plays and we got some key hits when it counted. I’m just so proud of these guys. It’s a great group of kids.”
Christensen leads in semi
In the sectional semifinal game against Janesville Craig, Christensen threw a gem, going all seven innings, allowing one run on four hits and three walks while striking out three.
Christensen allowed the one run in the first inning after a single, a balk and another single. However, he would settle down and not allow another Cougar to touch home plate.
Other than the first and seventh innings, Christensen didn’t throw more than 13 pitches in an inning.
“(Christensen) had a little bit of a rough go the first inning and he shut the door on them,” Kirchenwitz said. “He got the ball down in the strike zone and the other key was he was starting to get ahead in the count early. He wasn’t getting too deep in the count on the kids. He stayed in control most of the way.”
Kirchenwitz said holding the Cougars’ top three hitters to a 1 for 10 day was big.
The Raccoons trailed 1-0 through five innings until senior center fielder Mike Del Vecchio led off the sixth inning with a single on the first pitch. Del Vecchio would eventually come around on a game-tying RBI single by Klink.
Oconomowoc would add three key insurance runs in the seventh inning and Del Vecchio was right in the middle of the action again with a clutch RBI single scoring junior Austin Hallett after he walked.
“They’ve been doing that all year,” Kirchenwitz said referring to Klink and Del Vecchio’s clutch hits. “They go up there expecting to do that, so that’s a good thing.”
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