CRYSTAL LAKE – By his own admission, Ben Cilano doesn't lack self-assurance.
So when the Prairie Ridge junior right-hander got knocked around early by Crystal Lake Central Tuesday afternoon, it didn't faze him.
Instead, Cilano's ability to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning with the Wolves already trailing by a pair of runs turned out to be just what his team needed. The Wolves responded with three runs, requiring only one of their two hits to produce enough offense in a 3-2 Fox Valley Conference crossover win.
The Wolves (4-8, 3-1 FVC Valley) used a Marcus Sargeant RBI single, a Dustin Thelander sacrifice fly and a Central throwing error to take the lead. Cilano took care of the rest, finding a rhythm after a rough start.
"I was motivated – I saw they were hitting me and I knew my stuff was better," said Cilano, who struck out five and scattered six hits in the complete-game victory. "I trusted myself and I know (my teammates) always trust in me."
Cilano settled in after Central touched him up for three runs and four hits in the second inning when Tanner Larkins and Riley Popell drove in runs. The Tigers (2-8, 1-3 FVC Fox) followed up by loading the bases with only one out in the third, but Cilano pitched out of it, keeping the deficit at only two runs.
It proved to be a big difference-maker. For both teams.
"We had the guys we wanted up – it was right there," Central coach Dan Badgley said. "You have to at least hit the ball hard or make a good attempt. We had bad at-bats and that's hard to deal with."
As soon as Cilano got out of the bases-loaded mess, Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro told his team that this was its opportunity. And despite producing the two hits, the Wolves took advantage, loading the bases in their half of the third before Sargeant and Thelander came through with big at-bats.
Daniel Pecoraro, who reached base after being hit by a pitch, scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a throwing error.
"We're really good at grinding out at-bats, getting on base and them moving them over," Sargeant said. "Earlier in the season, we had trouble bringing them in, but now we're able to bring them in more often."
Cilano took over from there. His off-speed pitches kept Central off-balance and he allowed only one hit after the third inning to protect the slim lead. Everything hinged, though, on his ability to keep the Wolves in the game when Central missed an opportunity to break the game open.
"That was huge," Glen Pecoraro said. "Geez, they get one or two there and obviously that puts us back on our heels more....But we were fortunate enough to put a three-spot up and it ended up being enough."