LISLE – Before the beginning of the seventh inning, Crystal Lake South baseball coach Brian Bogda gathered his team outside the dugout. Trailing 3-0 to Downers Grove South, this was the last chance to move on to the semifinals of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
“I told them we’ve scored three runs in one inning in the past and to not give up,” Bogda said.
The Gators rallied in the seventh, forcing the game into extra innings and then exploded in the top of the eighth with seven runs, earning a 10-3 win over the Mustangs.
Crystal Lake South moves on to play Joliet Catholic, which beat Prairie Ridge, 1-0, in the ninth inning, at 10 a.m. Tuesday at North Central College in Naperville. The loser faces Prairie Ridge at 12:30 p.m. in an elimination game.
Prairie Ridge rebounded Monday night to beat Downers Grove South, 6-4, and stay alive in the double-elimination tournament.
“I really liked our kids' attitude and the way we kept fighting,” Bogda said. “It says a lot about their approach to the plate and they didn’t panic in a pressure situation. They’re starting to mature.”
With one out in the top of the seventh, Downers Grove South starting pitcher Ryan Taylor walked Derek Bulger and Andrew Swiatly. Tommy Matysik replaced Taylor, but couldn’t get the save to the end the ballgame.
He hit pinch hitter Ethan Weinandy and walked catcher Nick Van Witzenburg to make the score 3-2 with the bases loaded.
Outfielder Garrett Bright was walked to tie the score, but Crystal Lake South outfielder Michael Avella had a line-shot double play at third and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.
“We had our backs against the wall, but we knew if we got to their bullpen, we could get a lot of runs,” Bulger said. “We were in it. No one had their heads down.”
The Gators certainly had it in the eighth. Downers Grove South pitcher Zach Jones, who walked Bright to tie the game, couldn’t stop the Gators’ offense.
Jones surrendered seven runs on seven hits with Bulger, Witzenburg, Cam Geisser, Andrew Swiatly and John Constantino all driving in runs.
“We’ve come back multiple times in this tournament and to do it again was really nice,” Bright said. “We were down by one against Oswego East and with two outs, we tied it and pulled it out in 12. Against North, we won in extra innings.
“After the first time we did it, we knew we can do it so we just keep doing it every time,” he said.
Heading into the seventh, Crystal Lake South had three runners left on third in different innings. The Mustangs trailed 1-0 in the fourth after Witzenburg overthrew a runner at third, bringing him home.
In the sixth, Crystal Lake South pitcher Ryan Wilkening surrendered his only earned run when Downers Grove South catcher Danny Oriente drove in shortstop Joe Engel from third. Another error brought in outfielder Corey Vondra.
Wilkening finished with one earned run, eight hits and three strikeouts .
“[His performance] kind of goes unnoticed a little bit here,” Bogda said. “He continues to get groundball outs. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but that’s just the way he pitches. He did a great job and kept us right there and gave us a chance.”
Pitcher Timmy Siesennop closed the game, letting up only one hit in the eighth to earn the win.
Meanwhile, a pitcher’s duel occurred in the second game between Prairie Ridge and Joliet Catholic before Joliet Catholic senior Connor Brandon hit a deep ball to bring in KC Simonich from second in the bottom of the ninth.
Prairie Ridge starting pitcher Ben Cilano was dominant through seven innings, allowing only three hits. His replacement, Matthew Mohapp, allowed three hits in two innings.
The Wolves were in a great position to score in the top of the ninth with runners on second and third with just one out. However, Prairie Ridge unsuccessfully tried to bunt in both runners.
“Bunting is a big part of our team,” Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro said. “I’m disappointed because we had numerous guys on second and third and just didn’t execute.”