WOODSTOCK – For six innings, Woodstock North senior pitcher Cory Busse did everything in his power to keep his team within striking distance during Monday's Kishwaukee River conference baseball game against crosstown rival Woodstock.
Even when the Thunder allowed the Blue Streaks to score the game's first run with two outs in the top of the sixth inning – on a ball that rolled under the third baseman's glove for an error – Busse still kept his cool.
That all changed when he tallied his ninth and 10th strikeouts of the afternoon to end the top of the seventh.
As Busse walked off the mound, he became animated, shouting words of encouragement to his teammates as they sprinted past him to the third base dugout for their final at-bats. There was also a simultaneous look of frustration on his face.
"Yeah, I was a little upset," Busse said. "I just kept wishing someone would come through in the clutch so we could pick up the win. I wasn't sure what it would take for us to score a run the way things were going."
His wish came true minutes later, as the Thunder (12-3, 7-0 KRC) rallied to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh and emerged with a 2-1 victory. In his past two starts, Busse (3-0), a McHenry County College recruit, has 25 combined strikeouts. He fanned 15 Marengo hitters in a start six days earlier.
"Cory is just an absolute competitor out there," Thunder coach John Oslovich said. "He plays the game as much year-round as you can possibly play in the state of Illinois. He devotes an incredible amount of time to working out, practicing and even studying other teams' hitters prior to games.
"But the most important aspect of his game may be his mental makeup. He's a real smart kid, too, and he understands how to attack hitters to get the results he wants. He's been on varsity all four years now, and during that time, he's become a leader by example, and just one heck of a bright, talented baseball player."
Busse's complete-game effort was salvaged when Thunder leadoff hitter Nate Harris drew a walk to open the bottom of the seventh, chasing tough-luck Blue Streaks starter Josh Turner from the game with an eventual no-decision. Turner allowed one run on three hits and struck out four.
No. 2 hitter Colin Ritter was then hit by a pitch, followed by a bloop single to left by Busse to load the bases. Cleanup hitter Jake Busse also was hit by a pitch, with the bases still full, to tie the scored, followed by a game-winning bases-loaded walk to No. 5 batter Zach Johnson.
"Our goal was to drive the pitch count up on Turner, and it worked," Oslovich said. "We knew he was getting real close to that 105-pitch (IHSA) limit there in the seventh and would have to come out of the game soon."
Neither team had an extra-base hit, as a stiff wind was howling in from right-center field all game. It forced Woodstock (8-6, 0-4) to play smallball to manufacture its lone run in the sixth. The Blue Streaks scored without getting a hit that inning, thanks in part to a leadoff walk by Jacob Sumner and a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Evan Geske.
But it wasn't enough. The two teams are scheduled to face each other again Wednesday at Woodstock.
"I think our issue is more mental than anything right now," Woodstock coach Matt Prill said. "We've been in some close games lately, and we just need to find a way to close those close ones out. Woodstock North is a really, really good baseball team, and hopefully we take lessons we learned today into our next game against them and apply those lessons.
"We play them three times, so we can still potentially accomplish the goal of taking two of three from them and winning the season series. That's our goal against every conference team we face, to win the three-game series."
Nate Harris, sr., SS
Harris was the only player from either team to reach third base or further twice. He had a hustle infield single in his first at-bat, then stole a base. But his patient at-bat and walk leading off the bottom of the seventh sparked the Thunder's comeback win.
0: Extra-base hits in Tuesday afternoon's Kishwaukee River Conference showdown. There were, however, 10 walks.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Strategy paid off when Woodstock walked No. 3 hitter Cory Busse (with two outs and a runner on second in a scoreless game) in the fifth to get to the Thunder's cleanup hitter. The Streaks struck out the next batter to end the inning.
Woodstock North 2, Woodstock 1
Woodstock 000 001 0 – 1 3 2
Woodstock North 000 000 2 – 2 4 1
WP: Cory Busse 3-0 (7IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, 4BB, 10K). LP: Franklin (0IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 0K).
Top hitters–Woodstock North: Harris 1-3 (BB, R, SB), Cory Busse 1-2 (2BB), Jake Busse 0-3 (RBI), Johnson 1-3 (BB, RBI), Montgomery 1-3. Woodstock: Turner 1-2 (BB), Waryck 1-3, Kubacha 1-3.