Baseball: Neuqua Valley sweeps South ElginSouth Elgin's Joe Crivolio is tagged out by Neuqua Valley's Tanner Giesel on Saturday at South Elgin. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
Neuqua Valley used a little small ball to spark a huge doubleheader sweep Saturday against host South Elgin.
Jeff Evak’s suicide-squeeze bunt in the top of the seventh brought home the go-ahead run in a 2-1 victory in the opener. The Wildcats then used the momentum from the hard-fought win to rout the Storm 13-0 in five innings in Game 2.
The teams entered the day tied for first place in the Upstate Eight Valley, but the sweep puts Neuqua Valley (19-7, 13-3) in command going into the final two weeks of the regular season. South Elgin (16-6, 13-5), which lost back-to-back games for the first time all year, travels to play the Wildcats in Naperville on Tuesday in the final game of the series.
“That definitely took the wind out of their sails,” Evak said of Neuqua Valley’s dramatic Game 1 win. “Both teams were upbeat and everything, but when that happened that gave us a good lead in to the next game and we just came out pounding the ball. We took all the life out of them.”
Evak went 4-for-4 in the opener with three of his hits coming on bunt singles, but none was bigger than the one he laid down in the top of the seventh with the score tied at 1.
Matt Wollonik led off the inning with a single to right, moved up to second on a wild pitch and went to third on Jack Amaro’s sacrifice bunt. Evak then came to the plate and got his bat on a pitch up around his eyes to send the ball out in front of the plate as Wollonik charged home from third, leaving South Elgin pitcher Alex Wolfe with no play.
“I heard one of their kids in the dugout say, ‘He’s going to squeeze,’ so I knew it was going to be a tough pitch to hit,” Evak said. “I was thinking up and away, and that’s right where (Wolfe) put it. So I got lucky enough to get the ball into the ground and get it in play so Matt could score.”
Neuqua Valley pitcher David Gerber then came on and put the finishing touches on a two-hit complete game in the bottom of the seventh. South Elgin’s Nevan Jeske did manage to send a base hit into the left-field gap with one out in the inning, but he was thrown out at second trying to stretch the single into a double.
There was no such late-game drama in the second game as the Wildcats scored one run in the first, one in the second and two in the third before breaking things open with a nine-run outburst in the fourth.
Amaro (2-for-3, three runs, two stolen bases), Tanner Giesel (2-for-3, two RBI, two stolen bases), Nick Iarrobino (2-for-3, two RBI) and Joe Grabartis (2-for-2, two RBI) led the 13-hit attack for Neuqua Valley in the blowout. South Elgin junior Joe Crivolio (2-1) took the loss after allowing four earned runs on six hits in three innings.
The Storm scored its only run of the day in the third inning of Game 1 when Andrew Weedman drew a bases-loaded walk to bring home David Goins. Wolfe (2-1) was the tough-luck loser in the opener after allowing two earned runs on nine hits while striking out five in seven innings.
“Our kids were distraught after that first game,” said South Elgin coach Jim Kating, whose team managed only three hits on the day. “They thought they had a chance to win that game and do something. Now we’ve got to get focused and go play on Tuesday against them.”
Nick Blackburn (5-3) was dominant on the mound in Game 2 for the Wildcats, allowing one hit while going all five innings in the slaughter-rule shortened game. He struck out six and walked none.
Gerber (5-0) was similarly sharp in the opener, retiring 11 batters in a row at one point before finishing with seven strikeouts and three walks.
“As the game went on my curve ball started working well and I had a few changeups strike some guys out,” Gerber said. “I got a little more comfortable and was able to execute.”