Brookfield Central put pressure on the Oak Creek pitching staff throughout a Greater Metro Conference semifinal July 6 at Kapco Park.
The Lancers put runners on base in every inning but it took until the seventh for them to capitalize with a big hit. By then it was too little, too late, as a five-run deficit was too much to overcome in a 7-5 loss to Oak Creek.
"Both teams had opportunities," Brookfield Central coach Jeff Bigler said. "We got out of some jams, they got out of some jams. I was a little disappointed that we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had earlier in the game."
Brookfield Central did score twice in the second to take a 2-1 lead, but the Lancers could have delivered an early blow to the Knights with a big inning after loading the bases with nobody out.
Michael Hinz plated a run on a fielder's choice and Sal Gambatese followed with a sacrifice fly.
Gunnar Doyle hit a one-out triple in the bottom of the second and scored on a ground out by Dylan Fluegel to tie the game. A misplayed fly ball allowed Oak Creek to score twice to take a 4-2 lead in the third.
Matt Kasar scored on the fly ball hit by Ben Stanke, who then crossed the plate on an RBI single by Luke Posig.
Nick Leszcynski and Nathan Denofre hit consecutive singles to start the fourth for Brookfield Central and were sacrificed to second and third by Hinz. Gambatese drew a walk to load the bases, but Oak Creek right-hander Ben Ellifson fanned Mike Panos and got Zach Heckman to hit a comebacker to end the threat.
Adam Baade fought through hot and humid conditions to keep the Lancers in the game despite not having his best stuff. The right-hander limited Oak Creek to three earned runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
Oak Creek took advantage once Baade was lifted from the game, scoring three runs off Gambatese in the sixth inning to go up 7-2.
"On a hot day, Adam Baade struggled a little bit with getting his pitch count elevated," Bigler said. "We knew he was up against it later in the game. We went to our bullpen and it didn't quite work out for us."
The Lancers mounted a comeback attempt in the seventh, as Heckman singled and Osman walked with one out. After a ground out, M.J. Houdek walked to load the bases. Nick Leszcynski hit shot over the head of the center fielder to clear the bases and pull Brookfield Central to within 7-5.
But with the tying run at the plate, Oak Creek reliever Alex Binelas got Denofre to ground out to third to end the game.
Brookfield Central was playing in the semifinals of the Greater Metro Conference tournament for just the second time since the league implemented the event in 2011. The Lancers also fell in the semifinals in 2014.
"This is a tremendous model," Bigler said. "I've lauded the conference tournament, and we've had terrible success in this conference tournament. It is a great trial run (for the playoffs) to get your team ready for that mode where you have to perform when the opportunity arises or else you are going home.
"Now we are going home (from the conference tournament) and we get the taste of it, but we get a second chance in the state tournament. I hope our guys learn from it. I told them we have every opportunity and the talent we need to make a deep run."
Brookfield Central bounced back for a 3-2 victory over Sussex Hamilton to close the Greater Metro Conference tournament July 7.
A sac fly by MJ Houdek plated Heckman to give the Lancers a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
The Chargers scored a pair of runs in the third inning to go up 2-1.
Nathan Denofre singled home Leszczynski in the fifth and Max Meves followed with an RBI triple to put the Lancers up for good at 3-2.
Mitchell Jones and Denofre each collected two hits.
Michael Vandenberg allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings to earn the win. Hinz pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for the save.
Brookfield Central fell 6-2 to New Holstein in a nonconference game July 8 to close the regular season at 19-11 overall.