JOHNSBURG – Dundee-Crown head coach Jon Anderson threw sophomore pitcher Dan Denz a curveball before Friday’s Fox Valley Conference crossover game against Johnsburg.
Denz, in his first season on varsity, is normally used in late-inning situations. But on Friday, Anderson opted to start his sophomore reliever against the Skyhawks in order to keep his rotation in order. Denz responded with a complete game in his first-ever conference start, as the Chargers (11-12 overall, 8-6 FVC Valley) defeated Johnsburg, 6-3, at Tigers Field.
“I had a little bit of nerves going,” said Denz, who allowed three runs on three hits with six strikeouts and three walks. “There were definitely some butterflies going, but I just wanted to do the best that I could do as always. I had to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Denz allowed single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings before retiring the final six batters in order over the final two. D-C had a reliever warming up in the seventh just in case, but Denz needed only nine pitches to retire the side.
“At the beginning of the game, I felt my curveball wasn’t getting over, but as I got deeper into the game it started dipping more and getting over the plate with tighter break,” Denz said. “I wanted to go out there and finish what I started.”
Johnsburg (10-11, 7-6 FVC Fox) got the early lead following a leadoff double from its own starting pitcher, senior Kevin Kordik, who later came around to score on a wild pitch from Denz in the second inning.
Senior left fielder Chase Boch (3 for 4, double) tied the game in the top of the third, after Kordik, who was credited with the loss, threw wildly to an unmanned first base following a successful bunt attempt by junior right fielder Sam Ray.
Ray later broke the game open in the fourth inning, lacing a double down the third-base line with the bases loaded to score a pair after missing a double down the line on the previous pitch. The Chargers batted around in the order and went on to score four runs in the inning, knocking Kordik out of the game.
“I got a good count, it was 3-1. He threw me a pitch inside and I pulled it foul by about two feet,” said Ray, who finished 3 for 4 with three RBIs. “I knew [Kordik] was going to come in with a fastball again, and I just stayed in on it and hit it hard.”
Senior center fielder Fabian Gutierrez scored three runs and seniors Nick Munson and Zach Girard each had an RBI for the Chargers, while senior shortstop Collin Ridout went 1 for 3 with a triple and a run scored for the Skyhawks.
Johnsburg didn’t send more than five batters to the plate in any inning, as Denz kept the Skyhawks’ hitters off balance with a nice mix of hard stuff and breaking stuff. With the loss, Johnsburg fell a game behind first-place Grayslake Central in the loss column in the FVC Fox.
“It was a very good pitcher out there that we faced today,” Johnsburg coach Sam Lesniak said. “Dan [Denz] was a stud. He located pitches to the meat of our order early in the count and kept our hitters off balance the entire game."