State tournaments have become routine for Okarche's seniors.
Thursday in the Class A baseball state tournament, Austin Kretchmar will play in his 10th state tournament in either baseball or basketball.
The feeling of accomplishment hasn't diminished for Kretchmar.
“It's still there,” he said. “Making the state tournament is still special to me.
“There's only eight teams that get here. We're always just as excited for it as we were the first time.”
The Warriors open the tournament against Pioneer-Pleasant Vale at 4 p.m. Thursday at Dolese Park.
Kretchmar says this tournament is different, though, for multiple reasons.
First, Kretchmar and his teammates have won state tournament games. They've made state championship games. What they haven't done yet is bring home a title.
“It's my last one,” he said. “There's not going to be another high school state tournament for me after this. I want to make the most of it.”
To that end, Kretchmar also enters the tournament more confident.
“We've all played in big games before,” he said. “And this year, the tournament is wide open. There's always been that one or two team that you didn't want to face in the tournament. This year, I think we're that team but it's going to be whoever puts three good games together that's going to win.”
Last spring, Kretchmar was excellent on the mound, going 10-0 with a 1.51 ERA.
This year, though, he's been even better. So far, he's 11-0 with a 0.24 ERA heading into Thursday's expected start in the first round.
Kretchmar relies on a curveball and fastball, with the curve evolving into his out pitch.
“I've always been pretty confident with it but this year I'm extremely confident with it,” he said. “I can throw it in counts where the batter isn't expecting it.
He gives plenty of credit to junior catcher Sam Grellner and the defense behind him.
“Sam sees things that hitters do and does a great job of making adjustments and calling the game,” Kretchmar said. “I rarely have to shake him off. He knows what I want to do.”
Kretchmar has also been able to rely on the defense behind him to make plays instead of trying to force strikeouts. With the change in bats, that's become even more important.
“That's one of the things that we knew we needed to really improve on before this year,” Kretchmar said. “They've really done a great job with it. The bats have helped me out a bit but I'm more confident they'll make those plays.”
Kretchmar hopes to get a chance to pitch again, in a potential championship game Saturday.
“I've always been in the field and wanting to be on the mound for a championship game,” Kretchmar said. “I want that chance finally.”