CRYSTAL LAKE – Prairie Ridge catcher Dustin Thelander sensed something favorable coming after Wolves pitcher Jack Myers wriggled out of a tough spot in the top of the fifth inning.
With Crystal Lake South’s Mike Avella on third and no outs, Myers got a strikeout, a pop-up and groundout, stranding Avella and deflating the Gators, who could have tied the score.
“It gave us momentum, gave us energy in the dugout,” Thelander said. “When our dugout’s got energy, it gives hitters the motivation and hitting is contagious. One guy hits, then the next guy and the next guy. It leads to big innings.”
The Wolves scored five times after there were two outs in the bottom of the fifth on their way to a 9-3 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division victory Friday, the fifth in their last six conference games.
“It’s a 3-2 game, you think they’re going to score,” Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro said. “That was a big momentum changer. You could see the air come out of them a little bit and we gained a little momentum. Those innings haven’t been common for us, we get excited about those.”
Prairie Ridge (13-15 overall, 9-6 FVC Valley) had two outs and Chris Slack on third when Thelander singled, Kyle Buresch singled and Austin Covers walked. Cal Aldridge ripped a two-RBI double and Carson Getzelman tripled.
Myers (1-0) was converted to starter from closer and threw six solid innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out three. South (9-10, 6-7 FVC Valley) got two runs early, but not much else from Myers.
“I was just trying to hit my spots,” Myers said. “I just remembered [in the fifth] to go back to my routine, I needed to stay in myself and do what I do every single pitch. Just take a deep breath, clear my mind and work one pitch at a time.”
Avella reached second in an infield hit and throwing error on Aldridge, the third baseman who charged a slow roller, barehanded it and threw over first baseman Covers. Avella then advanced to third on a wild pitch, but Myers got tough.
He struck out Dakota Siwula and induced Ryan Wilkening on a pop-up to third. He then got A.J. Howaniec on a grounder to third, which got the Wolves, holding a 3-2 lead, more fired up.
“They make a mistake and we don’t take advantage of it in a spot where we can scratch in another run,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “That was pretty demoralizing. We need to put the ball in play better. We weren’t sharp as a team today. We didn’t help ourselves out.”
Thelander said Myers’ cut fastball was his best pitch.
“His cutter was unhittable today,” said Thelander, who was 3 for 4 with two RBIs. “It was real good, it was moving real nice and he was commanding inside and outside.”