CRYSTAL LAKE – Prairie Ridge pitcher Michael Patterson threw a perfect inning on nine pitches in the top of the first against Cary-Grove.
But Patterson’s better half inning came in the bottom. The senior ripped a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence in the middle of the Wolves’ six-run first, quickly alleviating any drama on the way to an 11-2 Fox Valley Conference victory.
“It was important to shut them down in the first,” Patterson said. “Then we come up and get a few runs on the board. Being able to swing the stick in the first inning was best for me.”
Prairie Ridge (23-9, 16-6 FVC) is one game behind Huntley (24-8, 18-6) in the conference standings. The Red Raiders are finished with FVC games, so if the Wolves sweep C-G, they can grab a share of the championship.
The Trojans have aces Jack Wenninger and Quinn Priester, both of whom are 6-1 with ERAs less than 1.00, ready to throw Wednesday and Thursday. But the Wolves have a shot.
“We know it ain’t going to be easy against Cary,” Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro said. “We know the arms they have. I told the boys at the beginning of the year we would have a chance to be in this situation. It’s nice being in this situation in the last week.”
C-G starter Bobby Jannusch struck out the first two batters he faced before Ben Harris drew a walk. Jared Lundquist doubled, Alex Powers singled and Patterson homered. The Wolves added two more after that.
“There’s always nerves coming out – it was senior day, a lot of fans, a little bit of jitters – but [Patterson] got that shutdown inning, and we put up a six-spot,” Prairie Ridge catcher Alex Powers said. “We took the momentum and we never gave it away. That was a huge start to the game.”
Patterson allowed two earned runs, seven hits, struck out nine and walked no one in six innings.
“We’re in a bad place right now, and we need to get out of it,” said Trojans coach Ryan Passaglia, whose team has lost seven of its past nine games. “We need to get back to playing baseball the way we were in the beginning of the year. We’re not hitting the ball real well, and we’re making uncharacteristic mistakes for us. We have a chance behind [Wenninger and Priester], but unless we play defense and hit, they can’t do it by themselves.”
It was the kind of start Prairie Ridge has grown to expect from Patterson, who is 4-3 with a 1.36 ERA and has issued only two walks.
“He just fills [the strike zone] up,” Pecoraro said. “The defense keeps on its toes; the innings go quick.”
C-G (19-11, 13-9) had runners on second and third after Drew Stengren’s single and Jacob Dodge’s double in the sixth, but Patterson struck out Ben Taczy for his last hitter.
“[Patterson’s] mentality was to fill up the strike zone and get outs any way he could,” Powers said. “He didn’t get frustrated if things didn’t go his way. He was a bulldog out there. He competed very well.”
Pecoraro did not commit to a starter for Wednesday’s game at C-G.
“It sure would be nice to match up [Ben] Harris against Priester [on Thursday at Prairie Ridge],” he said. “We’ll see what we decide tomorrow. We have Ryan Goudschaal, who’s been outstanding. Braeden Harrell’s last three or four outings, he’s been outstanding, and hopefully we’ll have [Holden] Phelps on the back end.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Michael Patterson, Prairie Ridge, sr., P
Patterson struck out nine, walked none and hit a two-run homer in the first inning as the Wolves beat Cary-Grove, 11-2.
4: Doubles out of C-G’s seven hits.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
It looks as if Thursday’s game could be a dream pitching matchup between Cary-Grove’s Quinn Priester, a likely high draft pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft next month, and Prairie Ridge ace Ben Harris. Both have ERAs less than 1.00.
Prairie Ridge 11, Cary-Grove 2
Cary-Grove 000 020 0 – 2 7 1
Prairie Ridge 602 021 x – 11 11 0
WP: Michael Patterson, 4-3 (6IP, 7H, 2R, 2Er, 0BB, 9K). LP: Bobby Jannusch (4IP, 9H, 9R, 8ER, 3BB, 7K).
Top hitters–Cary-Grove: Jack Thompson 1-4 (RBI, R), Ben Taczy 1-3 (2B, R), Dymitri Kanellakis 1-3 (2B, RBI). Prairie Ridge: Dom Listi 1-3 (RBI, R), Ben Harris 1-2 (RBI, R), Alex Powers 3-4 (3B, RBI), Patterson 1-3 (HR, 3RBIs), Brennan Kelly 2-2 (2B, 3RBIs).