No runs, no hits, no title for Brookfield Central baseball team
Lancers fall to third place in final GMC standings
He never threw anything close to a no-hitter before, not even in grade school, but give Oak Creek senior pitcher Jesse Sustachek credit for having good timing.
Make that magnificent timing.
The Knight hurler guided his team to a share of the Greater Metro Conference regular season baseball title with a one-walk, 3-0 no-hitter over powerful Brookfield Central on July 3 at Central.
"Jesse is rapidly turning into one of the best big-game pitchers we've ever had," said coach Scott Holler. "He's not going to blow you away with his velocity, but he was able to get ahead in the count with off-speed stuff. He got ahead with the curve and the slider, and then he was able to spot his fastball on one- and two-strike counts."
With the win, the defending GMC champion Knights, who were scuffling last week with three losses in six tries behind a myriad number of errors and walks, launched themselves into a tie for the title with Marquette at 15-3 (18-6 overall), while the Lancers, who had controlled the league race for much of the season, fell into third at 14-4.
"This feels great," Sustachek said. "I knew I had a great team behind me. We get down, but we know we can come back, and we have a lot of heart."
That much was evident right from the get-go. Late last week, Holler had called his junior-dominated team decided underdogs to the vastly more experienced Lancers. That the game was postponed from June 30 to July 3 because of heavy storms only added to the drama.
Furthermore, the race got tightened considerably on Tuesday when Menomonee Falls knocked off Central by a 5-2 count (see separate story), opening up the door for the Knights.
Third baseman Matt Hargreaves, whose booming seventh inning two-run double provided Sustachek with some crucial insurance runs, knew that if Sustachek was on that the Knights would have more than a good chance, even against the Lancers on their artificial turf home field and their 93-mile-an-hour fast baller Luke Sommerfeld.
"We just had to stay focused," said Hargreaves. "We've been battling, not getting too high or too low, and when Jesse gets going like he did tonight, it keeps everyone confident.
"This just shows how much character our team has. Baseball is a weird game; it doesn't always go our way, but tonight it did."
Largely because of Sustachek, who had a most remarkable night. He gave up just a second inning walk, and that runner never got beyond first. He averaged just nine pitches an inning and was estimated to have thrown about 70 percent first-pitch strikes.
Furthermore, 12 of the 21 Lancer outs were via ground balls, and he put down the last 19 hitters in order. He had five strikeouts and one walk, and only one ball left the infield, a fly out to right in the third.
"I was really able to keep the fastball down," Sustachek said. "I tried to get them looking at the slider while throwing my curve in the dirt."
Then it was just a matter of whether the Knights could support him because the powerful 6-5 Sommerfeld fought out of a few jams himself early on and didn't let the Knights hit him hard until late.
Oak Creek finally scratched out a run in the fifth, as Matt Hamilton got hit by a pitch, was sacrificed to second by Sustachek, moved to third on a passed ball and then scored when Ryan Farr's dribbler up the third base line could not be fielded cleanly, and the flip to first was bobbled.
"I actually smiled at that one," Holler said, "because that's the kind of stuff that's been happening to us the last few weeks."
With a lead, Sustachek's pitches gained a little more giddy-up, and two ground outs and a pop-up to first were his results in the bottom of the fifth.
Doran Turchin finally tagged Sommerfeld (four walks and six strikeouts) with a one-out double in the sixth but was eventually out on a contact play at home.
The insurance runs in the seventh came with two out as Farr again got on by a mishandled nubber, and then leadoff man D.J. Ellifson walked. Hargreaves' subsequent shot then went to the left field wall as both runs easily scored.
Two ground outs to Hargreaves and a strikeout completed Sustachek's masterpiece and put the Knights back in the winner's circle.
The effort was astonishing in Holler's eyes, especially given the Knights' uneven play of the last week.
"Against a guy like Sommerfeld, we had to play a near flawless game defensively, and we did," he said. "We just had some really good talks about the mental side of the game. I tried to be careful not to do too much, not get them overthinking.
"The key was that if we could just stay in it mentally all the way through, we had a chance."
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