Fremd's Plizga has his pitches working, blanks host Libertyville for regional hardware
Fremd senior pitcher Thomas Plizga turned a Class 4A baseball regional championship plaque into a makeshift track baton Saturday morning at Libertyville.
The winning hurler in the eighth-seeded Vikings' 6-0 defeat of top-seeded Libertyville grabbed the hardware and dashed, with his elated teammates in tow, toward thrilled Fremd fans sitting in a bank of bleachers near right field.
But the lefty -- call him a Redoubtable Thomas, because he went the distance in a sharp, snappy four-hitter, striking out eight and walking three -- chose not to hand the plaque off to anyone in civvies.
It belongs to the school.
And the Vikings (17-14) haven't completed their postseason run. Fremd faces Warren in a Stevenson Sectional semifinal at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Host Warren defeated Stevenson 11-9 in 10 innings in a regional championship game Saturday in Gurnee.
"Thomas pitched a great game," Fremd coach Chris Piggott said on a postcard-gorgeous day. "He pitched with a lot of confidence."
Neither Piggott nor Plizga knew Plizga's 2022 win-loss record.
"But I do know," Plizga said, "that it's not a very hot one."
A sizzling Plizga yielded only four singles, a scant two coming in the final five innings. In the second inning, he fanned a Wildcat with one out and two men on, walked a batter and then struck out another Wildcat to escape a bases-packed situation.
"All three of his pitches (fastball, curve, changeup) were working," said Libertyville coach Matt Thompson, whose batting order featured five lefties. "Tough kid to hit."
Fremd, up 1-0, scored twice in the fourth and three times an inning later. Vikings senior DH Bo O'Brien (2-for-3, walk) knocked in the first run in the fourth, and junior center fielder and No. 9 hitter Quinn Nelson -- who had homered in Friday's 14-1 defeat of ninth-seeded Highland Park in a regional semifinal -- made it 3-0 via a run-scoring double to deep right field.
Senior second baseman Mitch Burchert, junior left fielder Yuhki Yamada and junior third baseman Brayden Mobley each drove in a run for the visitors in the fifth.
The first run of the game was of the unearned variety. Singles by Yamada, O'Brien and senior catcher Nico Crocilla off Wildcats starter Jonathan Ciullo (6-1) in the top of the second preceded an errant throw to home plate.
"It's a lot of fun," Piggott, in his 20th season at Fremd, said of succeeding in the postseason. "It gives kids a chance to step up. We'd struggled defensively in the regular season, but we made plays today, big ones (including strong throws from Mobley and senior shortstop Drew Seidel on grounders).
Seidel also doubled and singled.
"I didn't have to say anything to them; I have 15 seniors," Piggott added. "All I do is get out of the way."
Thompson went out of his way to laud his 17 seniors after addressing the entire squad of Wildcats (29-10) in left field.
"So many good stories involving them," he said.
Perhaps the best: Outfielder Joey Yurek's first at-bat, in midseason, after recovering from knee surgery.
"Let him bat cleanup," a teammate suggested to Thompson before a game against Zion-Benton.
Thompson did just that.