CRYSTAL LAKE — For seven innings Saturday morning, Crystal Lake Central starting pitcher Justin Obaldo was as difficult to solve as a Rubik's Cube.
The junior left-hander seemed to mystify hitters at times during his team's 4-0 Fox Valley Conference shutout win over crosstown rival Crystal Lake South. Obaldo only allowed three singles while striking out five; though, he did walk five batters.
The first 12 outs he recorded all came via strikeouts, flyouts or infield pop-ups. Seventeen of the 21 outs he posted were strikeouts or air-based outs. And he did so while being primarily a two-pitch pitcher.
"Each batter, we have a different plan to attack," Obaldo said. "A lot of batters, we wanted to attack away in the zone, then hit them inside with the fastball. My curveball was working good today. I got it down in the zone. And then my changeup, I only threw once. It usually works for me most games, but I depended more on my fastball and curve this game."
It was also his first varsity victory, one which gave him a boost of confidence as the Tigers (7-15, 2-12) tallied their second conference win of the season.
"It shows me I can compete against any team we play," Obaldo said. "As long as I have my game and compete and attack the strike zone, I'll be good."
Gators coach Brian Bogda cited that aggressiveness as a key factor in the game.
"He (Obaldo) deserves credit today," Bogda said. "He's the story. He got ahead in the count against a lot of our hitters and really did a nice job changing speeds and locations."
The Tigers struck first in the top of the first inning against South starter Beiker Fuentes on a bases-loaded wild pitch with one out. Central plated two more runs in the second thanks to a two-out, two-RBI triple into the gap in right-center by Alec Bolanowski, who was the star offensively.
Bolanowski (4 for 4) also singled twice, doubled in the fifth, and was a homer away from the cycle batting in the No. 3 spot in the order. He did some pregame work that he felt contributed to his success.
"I just made an adjustment in my swing," Bolanowski said. "We were out in the cages before the game and trying to work on staying back and keeping my weight back longer. I think it helped me barrel up some baseballs. Prior to today, I was out in front of too often and grounding out to the shortstop and third base a lot because of it."
He then joked about barely missing hitting for the cycle.
"Looks like I need to hit the gym, too," Bolanowski said, chuckling.
Central's final run came on a misplayed fly ball with two outs in the fifth.
The Gators (11-9, 5-9), meanwhile, loaded the bases in both the first and seventh innings against Obaldo, but couldn't score. South stranded eight runners on base.
"We left a lot of runners on base today," Bogda said. "But one thing that stood out was our pitching. I thought Beiker did a good job for us starting on the mound today. And then Ryan (Murtaugh) held them scoreless in his two-plus innings of relief. So there were definitely some positives here."
STAR OF THE GAME
Justin Obaldo, Crystal Lake Central, jr., P
Obaldo allowed three hits, which were all singles, en route to his first varsity win.
6: Times the Tigers' No. 6-9 hitters reached base safely in 12 combined plate appearances.
AND ANOTHER THING...
After its win Saturday morning, Crystal Lake Central traveled to Huntley for its second game of a the day. The Gators drove to Dundee-Crown for a second game after their morning loss.
Crystal Lake Central 4, Crystal Lake South 0
Crystal Lake Central 120 010 0 – 4 10 1
Crystal Lake South 000 000 0 – 0 3 2
WP: Obaldo (7IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 5BB, 5K). LP: Fuentes (4.2 IP, 4H, 4R, 2ER, 2BB, 3K).
Top hitters–Crystal Lake Central: Bolanowski 4-4 (Triple, Double, 2 RBI), Welder 2-3 (Sac Bunt), Mensching 1-2 (BB), Walsh 1-3, Williams 1-3, Irwin 1-3. Crystal Lake South: Fischer 2-4, Hetherington 1-3, Mannella 0-2 (2 BB).