Preseason Power 25 Countdown: No. 3 Oak Creek


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer, Associate Scout

On Tuesday, April 21, the WIAA Board of Control asserted to cancel all 2020 spring competitions, baseball included. While saddened for the graduating class of 2020, the PBR Wisconsin staff will do its best to highlight what could have been this spring, in what was set to be an exciting campaign filled with intriguing storylines to know and players to follow.

We published our ‘Watchlist Squads’ post on Monday, April 20, spotlighting almost 20 need-to-know programs that fell short of official ‘Bubble’ or Power 25 status for our preseason team rankings. We also declared 18 more programs official ‘On the Bubble’ teams, teams that earned sincere Power 25 consideration.

Today, we continue our countdown to No. 1, the top-ranked team on the PBR Wisconsin Preseason Power 25. We’ll be releasing a team a day in our lead-up to No. 1, and we’re onto No. 3 this evening.

Team: Oak Creek
Preseason Rank: No. 3
2019 Record: 21-7
Conference: Southeast
WIAA Class: D-1
Head Coach: Scott Holler
Playoff Run: D-1 State Quarterfinalists
2019 Final Rank: No. 14
Returning Starters: 5
Returning Pitchers: 6 

OUTLOOK

As a summer baseball staple in Wisconsin, it was exciting to see a traditional power like Oak Creek make the transition to spring ball in 2019. It wasn’t clear the effect this would have on the program, but head coach Scott Holler and the Knights took to spring ball seamlessly, winning 21 games while earning a trip to state.

A narrow contest between Oak Creek and the eventual state runners-up Sun Prairie ended in a 3-2 loss for the Knights, but it was still a highly successful first campaign as a member of the spring format, finally. In fact, that state berth breathed some added confidence into the 2020 season – many of the pieces that made last year’s state berth possible would be returning, and there were so many reinforcements on the way.

While we’re confident that the Knights will be back in force in 2021, behind its talented 2021 class and the underclassmen that were set to be a part of this year’s varsity dugout, it’s heartbreaking to know this group of seniors won’t be afforded the opportunity to run it back.

Of those juniors who will be counted on as seniors next spring, RHPs Tyler Peck (Ohio commit), Isaac Engelbrecht, and Jacob Thoresen will lead the team from the rotation. They were critical staff-mates as sophomores and as seniors they’ll be integral to chartering what is arguably the deepest rotation in the state. The innings were pretty evenly distributed amongst the staff in 2019, and this squad will likely employ a similar strategy in 2021 because they can afford to. These three each pitched between 22 and 29-plus innings as sophomores and all recorded sub-2.00 ERAs. Peck and Engelbrecht wound up representing Team Wisconsin at the PBR Future Games, too, and the two looked sharp in March at our South MKE I.D. event. There, Peck was up to 87 mph showcasing a couple different breaking balls, while Engelbrecht sat at a heavy 84 mph with a biting curveball.

Another impact junior on this roster is Tyler Gall, who also showed especially well at that same South MKE event. He’ll offer two-way contributions but is the better prospect on the mound right now, with a running mid-80s fastball and a sharp curve. Gall will fit in the outfield next spring, too.

Tyler Gall (3/1/20)

There are some underclassmen follows here, as always. Among them, sophomore RHP/OF Luke Klekamp. He himself is already in the mid-80s with a funky delivery and a sinking fastball, paired with effective offspeed. It’s very possible that Klekamp would have forced his way into a more regular rotation role as the No. 3 here, behind Peck and Engelbrecht, while Gall and Thoresen would have been used in high-leverage relief roles. Either way, it’s clear that Klekamp only underscores how talented – and deep – this staff is.

Freshmen OF/RHP Zachary Olson and INF Kyle Pielsnik are two members of the state’s 2023 class to know, and they could have also made first-year impressions on their high school team, too. Olson broke out this winter and has earned a spot at the back of the national 2023 rankings for his upside athleticism that produced what looks to be a major right-handed bat with big arm strength. He was also up to 83 mph on the mound in March. As for Pielsnik, he moves well up the middle of the infield with advanced actions for his age, while swinging an athletic and loose right-handed bat.

Zachary Olson (3/1/20)

Given the graduations this daily lineup is set to endure, the emergence of these two will be important for the 2021 Knights.

So much of this year’s offense was set to come from seniors, apart from INF Zach Peterson, a high-motor player who hit .338 for Oak Creek as a sophomore, while walking 15 times which helped him reach base often enough to steal 15 bags. He’ll energize this team again from the top of next year’s order, as will junior OF Angel Rades. Rades is a left/left prospect who put on a well-rounded performance at our Madison event in mid-March and he could be a really useful corner outfielder to lean on in his senior spring next season. 

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT

Oak Creek’s 2020 squad looked to be in pole position for its first-ever Southeast Conference title. While the aforementioned names provide some reassurance that their first-ever spring title is only just delayed until 2021, it’s a bitter conclusion to these seniors’ prep careers.

Gunnar Doyle, a Madison JC commit, was set to power the middle of this year’s lineup. He’s been one of the state’s most productive hitters since his freshman year, and he was coming off a spring in which he hit .462 with 10 extra-base hits, including three homers. He earned a spot on our Preseason First Team All-State list as the engine of Oak Creek’s offense, and it would have been fitting to see him hoisting a state trophy for this storied program.

Gunnar Doyle (6/8/19)

3B Logan Brahm is a strong corner infielder who struggled offensively as a junior, but should have rebounded in his senior season to help these bats support their polished pitching staff. RHP/OF Kyle Fluegel (Milwaukee School of Engin.) is another senior here who earned consistent opportunities as a junior, setting himself up for an expanded role in his last year of high school ball. He hit .250 as a junior in 44 at-bats, but there was reason to think his simple, compact swing could have helped him offer a more productive role filling out this lineup as a senior.

Simply, Oak Creek was set to enter the spring season as D-1 heavyweights again, with genuine state title hopes as one of the top teams in Wisconsin. They’re not going anywhere in 2021, but the 2020 roster looked especially prepared to make their way back to state and return home to restock the trophy case.

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