Hintz improves to 9-0, St. Viator bats come alive in win over Vernon Hills
It was Hintz and hits for St. Viator Wednesday at the Class 3A Grayslake Central Sectional semifinal.
Casey Hintz threw 7 solid innings, while Dylan Harer and Dominick McKevitt each delivered huge hits as the Lions knocked off Vernon Hills 4-1 before an estimated 1,100 fans.
St. Viator (35-2) will play the winner of Thursday's semifinal between Grayslake Central and Crystal Lake South for the sectional title at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"It was just some give and take," St. Viator coach Mike Manno said. "I think we got what we deserved. There is no looking ahead. When Casey is on the mound we have a chance to win. And our bats have been pretty good too."
Hintz, who is 9-0, allowed just 3 hits while striking out 6 and throwing just 80 pitches. He allowed just 1 hit to the final 16 batters; that was later erased on an unassisted double play by Zan Von Schlegell.
"I was just trying to go at them today," Hintz said. "I was working both sides of the plate and up and down trying to keep them off balance."
It was an emotional Vernon Hills that took the field Wednesday. The team and their fans had recently learned of the death of classmate and basketball player Adam Jablonski, who was pulled from Como Lake in Walworth County in Wisconsin last Sunday and passed away Monday.
The Cougars (18-15) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Brandon Mahler led off with a single. Courtesy runner Will Schart got to second on a wild pitch. After advancing to third on a fielder's choice, Schart scored on Max Brusso's sharp single to right.
St. Viator, which had stranded runners in the first 3 innings, final broke through to tie in the fourth. Von Schlegell had singled and was bunted to second by McKeviit. Von Schlegell then scored on a 2-out double by Ian Farrell.
The hottest hitter on the Lions put St. Viator up for good.
Harer, who came into the game with 5 consecutive hits, including a triple and home run, blasted another round-tripper to open the fifth.
"I am just seeing the ball real well lately," Harer said. "We are staying calm in the big situations. I was able to pick up that curveball spin and catch it out front."
The Lions weren't done pushing runners across the plate.
Connor Nichols reached on an error and Tony Pluta walked. After a fly out, Pluta was erased at second on a fielder's choice.
With runners on first and third, Von Schlegell went to second on what Vernon Hills believed was an attempted double steal. But Viator courtesy runner Connor Giroux remained at third.
With runners at second and third, McKevitt drilled a shot to left center, scoring both runs to put the Lions up 4-1.
"We are just staying relaxed and feeding off each other's energy," McKevitt said. "And I was just trying to stay relaxed at the plate. And then do what I do best."
Hintz mowed down the final six Cougars to advance the Lions.
"We are happy to just keep playing," Manno said. "It's not one guy. It is a collective group and it is never the same guy in the box score."
"We made a couple of mistakes and it cuts us," Vernon Hills coach Eric Levin said. "We faced a lot of adversity this week and this year. It was tough for these guys. They focused in and we played hard."