Becca Oleniczak gives the impression that it was just another game. In the context of Oak Creek's week and season, perhaps it was.
The Knights ace threw her first varsity no-hitter against host Franklin on May 9, part of a 7-0 victory that boosted her team's gaudy record that escalated to 21-1 after a thrilling win over Kenosha Tremper two days later and a convincing 21-3 win over Racine Horlick on May 12 that locked up at least a share of the Southeast Conference title.
"I’ve had a couple one-hitters this year, so it was kind of in the back of my mind that one will happen this year," said the junior Oleniczak, who isn't even her team's primary pitcher in the summer months, when she plays for the Wisconsin Bandits out of Horicon. "By the fourth inning, when I realized I only had one walk and no hits, I figured it could be possible. And then it kind of happened."
Oleniczak finished with nine strikeouts and two walks and went the full seven innings. She spoke about it with more of a calm satisfaction than a sense of thrill.
"Becca is a very hard-working kid and takes great pride in all parts of her game and in the classroom," Oak Creek coach Jeff Trask said. "She has always been about the team first, and has never been a look-at-me type of person. ... As a pitcher, she has really bought into what our assistant coach John Cox has been working with her on. She has a good mix of movement pitches and does a great job of hitting her spots. Together with coach Cox, she uses that mix to set batters up to get a ton of groundball outs and strikeouts. I think Becca also realizes she has a great defense behind her so it's OK for batters to put the ball in play, and she doesn't always have to pitch for a strikeout."
Oleniczak doesn't feel she's going to get batters out with her velocity; instead she relies on a well-located arsenal that includes her curveball, rise ball and occasional change.
"It’s a lot of working outside with my curveball," she said. "Myself and my pitching coach, we both have a lot of confidence in my curveball toward the outside of the plate. Some hitters won't try to hit the ball to right field. When we're going away, away, away, then we’ll bust them inside to throw them off a little bit."
Playing on a summer team with New Berlin West ace Cheyenne Sowinski, Oleniczak primarily sticks to third base, where she's also a force with which to reckon. The Knights' leading hitter (.576 batting average) figures her place on the diamond in college will be at the hot corner. She was named the Southeast Conference Player of the Year last year as a sophomore, after all.
But she seems to be getting better as a pitcher each time out. She allowed one run on four hits with 10 strikeouts against DeForest (15-2) in a narrow tournament win on May 5. A day later, she threw a one-hitter against returning state qualifier Verona. Two days later against powerful Greenfield (16-4), she became the first pitcher to hold Greenfield below four runs in any game with a 12-0 shutout, permitting two hits.
Against Kenosha Tremper on May 11, she had to work overtime, throwing eight innings in a 3-2 victory that ended on Peyton Strong's RBI single in the bottom of the first extra inning. Oleniczak herself went 3 for 4 with a run driven in.
The win over Horlick proved to be a home-run festival, with two round-trippers for Tori Golden and one each for Athena Binelas, Sarah Traxel, Dakota Johnstone and Katie Mitchell.
Oleniczak said she wouldn't mind adding the "Pitcher of the Year" plaudit to her mantel, but again, it's not a focus.
"It would be something nice to add to my resumé for schools to look at, but if I don’t get it, I’m not going to lose sleep over it," she said.
With a healthy three-game lead in the Southeast Conference standings and three to play, Oak Creek has the SEC title essentially locked up. Now comes the fun part. Tremper, Greenfield and Franklin are all among the top opponents in the forthcoming Kenosha Bradford sectional. The Knights will be heavily favored to break through and return to state for the first time since 2008.
Oleniczak will naturally be a central component of that pursuit.
"She's had a great season, and her no-hitter was certainly fun to be a part of and a great accomplishment for her," Trask said.
It will be remembered even more fondly based on what comes next.