CRYSTAL LAKE — The McHenry baseball team finally got the Crystal Lake South monkey off its back.
After losing a pair of close games to the Gators earlier in the season, the Warriors turned the tables on Tuesday thanks to an impressive 5-2 Fox Valley Conference comeback road victory that included strong pitching and timely hitting.
McHenry senior starting pitcher Mike Lasiewicz went the distance, allowing just two runs — a solo homer to Brian Fuentes in the first inning, followed by a one-out double steal in the second. After that, he buckled down and yielded just four baserunners over the next five innings, on a day where the wind was whipping out to left-center.
"I was having a little trouble with my slider early-on, but I was still able to locate my fastball when I needed to," said Lasiewicz, who didn't allow a walk while striking out six.
The Northern Illinois University commit also felt a bit of redemption after losing 1-0 in a prior outing to the Gators (14-1, 5-1 FVC), who suffered their first loss of the season.
"Handing them their first loss definitely gives us a ton of confidence," said Lasiewicz. "But we're a confident team to begin with. I was eager to get out there and get a second shot at beating them. I pitched six innings the first time I faced South and we got shut out by a run, but I felt like I made a few mistakes and walked a few too many guys that game. It feels great to finally beat them."
After falling behind 2-0 early, the Warriors' bats sprung to life midway through the game. Junior Nick Finley (3 for 4, 3 RBIs) lofted a solo home run to left leading off the top of the fourth, his first of the year. He then came through with a two-out, two-RBI single in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie, giving McHenry (11-3, 6-3) the lead for good.
Finley started the season hitting in the No. 6 and 7 spots in the lineup, according to Warriors coach Brian Rockweiler, but batted third on Tuesday.
"Everyone was probably wondering what I was thinking moving a kid who was struggling up so far in the order," Rockweiler said. "But I knew it was only a matter of time before Nick started showing how talented he is with the bat. That's been our Achilles' heel this spring. We haven't had sustained success on offense, so we're hoping today was another sign we're turning a corner."
"To have coach put that much faith in me when I was struggling truly gave me confidence at the plate," Finley added. "That sort of thing can do wonders for a player when his manager believes in him."
The Gators got a solid outing and a no-decision from junior lefty starter Riley Tannhauser, who went four innings and allowed two runs (one earned) before being replaced by coach Brian Bogda in the fifth. South committed two of its three errors that inning, which led to three unearned McHenry runs.
"We've got nothing to hang our heads about," Bogda said. "We started off the season pretty darn good. There are some things we can continue to clean up, but to beat a solid team like McHenry, you just can't give them easy runs like that. We just made a few defensive miscues.
"Honestly, I think it says a lot about both squads that the final score was only 5-2 with the way the wind was howling out, especially since both teams had multiple errors. We're going to be fine. We're going to be right there at the end of the season. We just have to go back after it tomorrow and keep working hard."
Nick Finley, jr., 2B
He said he wasn't sure he got it all, but Finley's solo homer to left in the fourth was the spark the Warriors' offense needed, and the first longball he's hit this season. His two-RBI single inside the third base bag an inning later proved to be the difference.
2: The number of strikeouts by McHenry batters in 31 combined plate appearances Tuesday.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Gators coach Brian Bogda dug into his bag of strategy tricks, using three separate extreme infield shifts. All three times resulted in McHenry players hitting into those shifts for outs. He also asked Brian Fuentes to drag bunt on the first pitch one at-bat after hitting his third homer of the year.
McHenry 5, Crystal Lake South 2
McHenry 000 131 0 – 5 6 2
Crystal Lake South 110 000 0 – 2 7 3
WP: Lasiewicz 2-2 (7IP, 7H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 6K). LP: Tyrrell (3IP, 4H, 3R, 1ER, 0BB, 1K).
Top hitters–McHenry: Finley 3-4 (HR (1), 3RBI), Lasiewicz 2-3 (R), Gillund 1-3. Crystal Lake South: Chubb 2-3 (SB), Fuentes 1-3 (HR (3), RBI), Olsen 1-3 (2B), Swiatly 1-3, Bright 1-4, Wolski 1-3 (2B, SB, R).