CRYSTAL LAKE – The sight of Crystal Lake South ace Tyler Hall warming up before the game had its usual calming effect on a team riding a three-game skid.
After Troy Bittenbender’s grand slam and a five-run first inning, the Gators were positively tranquil.
South jumped all over Prairie Ridge for 11 runs in the first two innings and Hall stayed out of trouble despite a hefty wind blowing out to center field as the Gators won, 13-2, in five innings in their Fox Valley Conference Valley Division baseball game Tuesday.
“I threw well and kept it down, but it was a team effort with the run support they gave me today,” said Hall, who is 6-1. “Any pitcher will feel more comfortable with a five-run lead in the first inning. It allows you even more to pitch to contact and pick your spots.”
South (12-4 overall, 9-4 FVC Valley) is one game out of first in the division after co-leaders Huntley and McHenry both lost. More importantly, the Gators halted their own losing streak.
“We were concerned,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “It’s going to be a battle in the Valley. We scored some runs early and we haven’t been doing that the last three games. With the wind blowing out, I really like what Tyler [Hall] did today. He pitched to his abilities and threw strikes and got ground balls.”
Prairie Ridge (15-7, 7-4) could not have experienced a much rougher start. The first seven South hitters reached base, the first four without a hit. Jake Bigos walked, Hall reached on a fielder’s choice, Tommy Gaede was hit by a pitch and Max Meitzler drew an RBI walk. Bittenbender then made it 5-0 with his grand slam to left-center field.
“[Starter Steven Ladd] gave me a fastball and I probably should have swung at that, but I was looking for something different,” Bittenbender said. “The second pitch was a changeup and I was able to stay back and drive my hands inside. The wind helped it out a lot.”
Things got worse for the Wolves in the second as Meitzler and Garrett Bright each hit three-run homers and South scored six more runs.
“We just wanted to take pitches until we got our pitch,” Bittenbender said. “It was good to get off to a huge lead against them.”
Prairie Ridge will have its ace Mike Reitcheck ready for Thursday’s rematch between the two teams at South. Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro was noticeably upset with his team following the game.
“I can’t really say anything about our game that’s not bad,” Pecoraro said. “And I don’t want something bad to get in the paper.”