Baseball: Naperville North evens series with Neuqua Valley
The Naperville North baseball team got a good grip on Tuesday's game at Neuqua Valley with a six-run first inning.
And it needed it as the Wildcats chipped away at that lead, but couldn't get close enough as the Huskies held on to prevail, 8-5.
The rubber game of the three-game set is Thursday at Naperville North.
"It was a great team win against a very good team," said North coach Jim Chiappetta. "The conference is going to be super competitive this year."
The Huskies (5-2 overall, 1-1 in the DuPage Valley Conference) grabbed the 6-0 first-inning advantage on five hits including two-run doubles from Zach Bava and Patrick Graham, an RBI double by Cole Clemens along with an RBI single from David Richardson.
Tanner Mally, Keegan Walter and Jackson Prentice scored for North in that frame along with the three double hitters.
A strong wind stayed for all seven innings of the game at Bill Walsh Memorial Field and blew in sideways to the west for most of the contest. For the most part, hitters had to adjust their approach.
"Against Neuqua, we wanted to approach the right center line, get line drives and hit into the gaps. But today, you just tried to hit the top of the ball and hit it wherever it was pitched. We weren't going to drive it to right field," Graham said.
Neuqua (3-3-1, 1-1) immediately responded with three runs in its half of the first. Leadoff hitter Mark Mennecke walked and Colin Lewandowski got hit by a pitch.
An RBI single by Josh Wenz brought home Mennecke with Tyler Auer's two-out double scoring Lewandowski. Auer came home on a wild pitch.
Wenz made it a 6-4 contest in the third when he reached on a fielding error and scored on a wild pitch.
Auer was not done hitting for the afternoon. In the fifth, with the Huskies leading 7-4, Auer parked the first pitch to left center field.
"We try not to put reins on the guys regarding hitting. We want them to be aggressive," said Neuqua coach James Thornton.
Auer used the experience from his previous at-bat when he stepped up to the plate in the fifth.
"I had two curveballs for strikes. I was looking for a fastball. I saw it in the zone and took it," he said.
Bava earned his third RBI of the game in the seventh when his infield hit scored Ryan Yurcus, who was running for Prentice who had reached on an error.
"I stayed on my back foot, closed the hips and hit the ball," he said of adjusting to the windy conditions.
Kyle Fuglsang earned the win by going five innings with 7 strikeouts.
"This was a good first experience with a lot of kids to know what it takes to beat a good team," Chiappetta said.
Thornton was glad his team kept battling, but said adjustments need to be made.
"We have just not been getting the big hit when we need it. And when you strand eight and strike out nine times, you are not going to win," he said.