Baseball isn't going to out-baseball a savvy, four-year varsity veteran like Cary-Grove's Tyler Pennington, a talented left-handed hitter with a firm handle on the ups and downs of America's pastime.
Though he went 0-for-3 and was caught looking twice in Wednesday's 3-0 loss to Dundee-Crown and grounded out weakly in his first at-bat of Thursday's Fox Valley Conference rematch in Carpentersville, Pennington internalized none of it.
He stepped to the plate with a clear mind in the third inning and his team trailing 1-0 and ripped a 1-0 changeup from Dundee-Crown starting pitcher Brett Buske over the right-field wall for a 3-run home run. The Trojans went on to win 11-1 in seven innings to even the 3-game series.
One day after he posted an 0-fer, Cary-Grove's catcher finished 3-for-5 with 4 RBI.
"You wouldn't survive in this game if you didn't have a short memory," said Pennington, a two-time all-area selection. "Once you're struggling you really just have to get back to the basics and have that confidence to know what you can do, know what you have done and know things will go your way."
It was Pennington's fourth home run this season.
"He was struggling (Wednesday) and he doesn't really struggle often so you wonder how he was going to handle it," Cary-Grove coach Don Sutherland said. "Then that (home run) was huge."
It was all Cary-Grove (13-4, 8-3) after Pennington's blast. The Trojans added a fourth run in the third inning on Ben Levicki's two-out single, 3 more runs in the fifth, keyed by Ryan Ignoffo's 2-run double, 2 in the sixth and 2 in the seventh to avenge the Game 1 loss.
The run support was appreciated by Cary-Grove right-handed starting pitcher Mike Eleftheriou (3-0), though far more than he required. The 6-foot-5 senior right-hander tossed a 3-hitter with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. The lone run against him on Johnathan Mays' first-inning groundout was unearned.
"Everything was really good,"Eleftheriou said of his fastball-change-curve inventory. "Tyler (Pennington) called pitches really well. The changeup was there, the fastball and the curve. Just mixing those up worked."
"He had our hitters off balance," Dundee-Crown coach Matt Mueller said. "We got some good wood on him early but I thought our guys were a little off balance the rest of the day. What can you do? A 3-run homer changed the game and it got away from us, but we're excited to get back at them Saturday over at Cary in the rubber match."
Ignoffo went 2-for-4 with a double and 2 RBI and Justin Trausch finished 2-for-4 with a double for Cary-Grove.
Scott Wojcik (double), Greg Williams and Matt Marczyk had the only hits for Dundee-Crown (6-8, 3-8).