A beautiful day in Franklin's beautiful new stadium led to some beautifully perfect hitting conditions for visiting Oak Creek on April 18 in a Southeast Conference softball game.
The Knights rallied for seven runs on eight hits in the fourth inning to erase a 5-1 deficit to their hosts and eventually overpower the Sabers, 14-6, in a victory that kept Oak Creek close in the Southeast Conference race.
'We just kept swinging,' said Oak Creek senior left fielder Brooke Lipinski, who had two hits in that pivotal fourth frame. 'Once we got started, we just got everyone going.'
Oak Creek would finish with 17 hits on the evening as it improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in Southeast action, just a smidgen behind Kenosha Indian Trail and Kenosha Bradford (2-0 each). Meanwhile, Franklin fell to 1-2 in league play and 1-3 overall.
'We just had a lot of positive energy coming out of the dugout,' said Oak Creek coach Jeff Trask. 'The kids weren't down on themselves. We knew we had to have better at-bats.'
That they did as they scratched out only one run on three hits through the first three innings against Sabers starter Fatime Sino. Franklin took advantage of that situation and a key dropped pop fly to push ahead in the bottom of the third.
Lizzy Versnik knocked in a run with a ground out to make it 2-1 Franklin, and then her sophomore sister Emily Versnik followed that with a booming three-run homer to right-center off Knight starter Nicky Widenski to make it 5-1.
'She's in her first year on varsity, but she's picking up things fast,' said Franklin coach Jenny Rechlicz of Emily Versnik. 'She's the third of three sisters, and she can really hit.'
But playing in their second home game in their brand new softball stadium tucked between the Hughes Baseball Field and the athletic complex, the Sabers could not maintain their momentum.
Franklin coach Jenny Rechlicz said if Franklin's pitching was not on its 'A' game that Oak Creek would 'pound you into the ground.'
And that's exactly what happened in the fourth. Lipinski opened the frame with a ringing double, while Madison Hart beat out a bunt to put runners on first and third. Peyton Strong then followed that with a two-run double to left-center to make it 5-3.
Franklin almost got out of trouble after a sacrifice bunt and a groundout, but then the Knights followed with five straight hits, including an RBI single by Haili Cota, an RBI double from Selena Bento, a run-scoring single Becca Oleniczak and a double from Katie Mitchell.
That last hit chased Sino and brought in Megan Lee. Lipinski then rudely greeted her with a two-run single that made it 8-5 Oak Creek.
Franklin would never get within three runs after that point. Oleniczak relieved eventual winner Widenski in the fifth. She shook off some early control problems that helped the Sabers close the gap to 9-6 in the fifth and set down the last eight Franklin batters in a row.
The Knights helped her with two runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh as Oleniczak struck out the side in the seventh.
Sino took the loss for Franklin as Karissa Minster scored two runs and was issued two walks. Lizzy Versnik knocked in two runs to go along with her sister's three-run homer.
'It just wasn't a good game for us,' Rechlicz said. '... We needed to maintain that momentum (from the third inning), especially being at home with all the hype surrounding the new field. We had a good inning, but we couldn't keep it going.
'It was a combination of a lot of things.'
Widenski had two strikeouts and two walks in four innings of work, while Oleniczak had five strikeouts in her three innings of relief.
The relentless Oak Creek attack had a lot of contributors.
Bento had four hits with three RBIs and two runs scored; Lipinski had three hits with two runs scored and two RBIs; Strong had two hits with four RBIs; Hart scored two runs and had two hits; Oleniczak had two hits with two RBIs; and Mitchell had two hits with two runs scored.
Oak Creek hit seven doubles on the night. It was an example of what the Knights' offense could do when pushed into high gear.
'We're really expecting a lot of out of ourselves this year,' Lipinski said.
'This is always a tight game, but these kids have been around each other for awhile, and they know each other pretty well,' Trask said. 'Once we found our groove, we were able to settle down.'
And if they do that often enough?
'That's a team capable of winning the conference title,' Rechlicz said.