Menomonee Falls shortstop and ace relief pitcher Brett Krause must love Oak Creek's Abendshein Field.
Last year, he hit an extra inning home run to beat the Knights there and on Tuesday night, with the Indian baseball team coming off a discouraging home loss to underdog West Allis Central the night before, he came up big again, closing out a 7-4 upset of the defending state champion Knights with two sometimes harrowing innings of relief work.
How harrowing? After a stunning 12-pitches, three strikeouts-looking effort in the sixth, Krause was a fighter backed into a corner in the seventh after a walk, a towering flare that dropped into no-man's land and a soft liner loaded the bases with none out.
How did he react?
"That was kind of fun actually," he said.
Not for Indian fans who are still getting used to the colossal highs and lows this talented Falls' squad has provided so far this summer.
But Krause got a pop-out to catcher Jordan Richardson on a full-count pitch for the first out and then got the Knights' Hayden Krrimmer and Matt Hamilton to strike out and close the book on a much needed victory.
"It was bases loaded and we had to work to get some outs," he said. "We just have to bring our 'A' game with us everytime. We came in fired up for this one. Now we have to see if we can take it and run with it, because when we're playing well, we can beat any team in the state."
Oak Creek remained in the Greater Metro Conference lead with an 11-2 record in league play (13-3 overall) while Falls improved to 8-5 in the GMC and 12-7 overall.
Knights' coach Scott Holler is going to try use this loss as an object lesson for his young team, which starts as many as seven underclassmen on a given night. He has said the Knights have enough pitching and offense to beat just about anyone out there, but they have to pick up the ball on defense if they are going to make it all work.
They didn't in the fourth, as three errors, two walks, and five Falls' singles, many of them the "seeing-eye" variety helped the Indians plate six runs.
Richardson, Justin Johnson and Krause had RBI singles and Adam Vechart a sacrifice fly in the frame. Falls scored a critical four runs after two were out.
"We got our speed on the bases and then we were able to put some pressure on their defense," said Indian coach Pat Hansen. "We talked about putting the ball in play and that's what we did."
Holler was discouraged by the frame but not totally surprised.
"I counted at least six or seven freebies (errors or walks) in that inning," he said. "You can't give a good team like this that many opportunities and expect to come away with a win."
But still the Knights tried to defend their home field. The Indians had called up sophomore Michael Bowe to pitch tonight because Falls was caught a little in-between in its staffing. Bowe had thrown well in a non-conference contest against Kettle Moraine and earned another opportunity.
He had shut the Knights down for the first three innings, until first baseman Mitch Hart cracked a two-run homer in the fourth to make it a 7-2 game.
The game hurler was skating on thin ice in the fifth but was close to getting out of trouble until Krimmer cracked a two-run double to right-center to cut it to 7-4.
"I thought he (Bowe) did a great job," said Hansen. "He earned this opportunity." Bowe picked up the win with three strikeouts and two walks and Mitch Makarewicz took the loss for the Knights leaving after that disasterous fourth
Krause then stepped in and did a masterful job in the bottom of the sixth.
"He's always been as good as advertised," said Holler, while his own relief pitchers Colton Giessel and D.J. Ellifson held the Indians scoreless for the final three frames.
That set up the drama of the seventh, where Krause and the Indians proved themselves capable of bringing down the curtain.
Curiously enough, this marked the third straight year that these two powerhouses have gone to each other's home field and won in their annual home and home series.
'So much for homefield advantage," said Holler. "I thought we did a good job of getting back into the game after it was 7-0. We could have hung our heads but we fought back. But like I said, we gave them too many freebies."
Right now, Hansen knows that winning the conference regular season title is going to be a tall task for Falls.
"So right now, we're just playing to play good baseball right now," he said.
"We need to put pressure on other teams and play our style of ball," added Krause.