Baseball: Neuqua Valley shuts out Naperville CentralNeuqua Valley's Brett Marsalli slides in safely under the tag of Naperville Central's Ian Lewandowski in Naperville on Saturday, Mar. 31, 2012 | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 31, 2012 7:08PM
Returning home after going 1-3 against a pair of perennial Tennessee state powers, Neuqua Valley coach Robin Renner still felt he had reason to feel optimistic.
“[Christian Brothers] coach [Buster Kelso] gave us quite the complement (after beating us, 4-3, in nine innings Wednesday],” Renner said. “He said, ‘We play a lot of teams from up north and we’re always ahead of them, just because of the weather.’ He said, ‘You guys are by far the most prepared team to come down and play us. That was the biggest scare we’ve ever had.’ ’’
Two days after almost upsetting Tennessee’s defending Division 2-AA state champions and playing in Illinois for the first time since March 21, the Wildcats’ prowess on the mound was on full display against Naperville Central.
Taking full advantage of a cold and blustery day, three Wildcats pitchers combined to put together a three-hit, 1-0 shutout of Naperville Central Saturday afternoon.
Throwing four hitless innings in the Redhawks’ direction, Neuqua Valley senior right-hander Max Biedrzycki proved to be the biggest beneficiary.
Before giving way to Jon Vlk and David Gerber for the game’s final three innings, Biedrzycki fanned four and allowed only one Redhawk to reach base, courtesy of walking Redhawks’ junior second baseman Nick Lopez to begin the third.
“It was great. The curveballs were a little hanging, but they’re good,” Biedrzycki said. “My backup [defensively] from [senior center fielder] Jack Amaro — he’s great. So I had the four hitless innings. Otherwise, the defense is great [and] backed me up.”
Biedrzycki’s effort Saturday marked a stark difference to the last time he faced Naperville Central when he was tagged for five runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings in a wild, 18-17 Neuqua Valley victory last year.
With the game still scoreless in the bottom of the second, Amaro adjusted on a line drive hit by Naperville Central senior left fielder Ross Murphy.
That play alone perhaps signified the type of day it was going to be for all the pitchers.
“Right away, we knew it was going to be a very difficult day to hit. Then when Murphy hit, I thought, a real hard hit ball to center field and Amaro took a step back, waited and then had to race in to catch it, I knew that nothing was gonna carry and it was gonna be difficult to hit,” Renner said. “And the pitchers did do exceptionally well.
“That game could’ve (gone either way). Seriously, that was a game where I say it could have gone either way, I mean an inch it could have gone either way.”
The Wildcats pushed the game’s only run across home plate in the top of the third after junior catcher Dylan Goss coaxed a bases-loaded walk out of Redhawks’ starter, junior Jim Nashert, to score Brett Marsalli.
Going three innings for the Redhawks, Nashert (0-1) took the loss despite allowing just one unearned run on one hit while striking out six.
Held hitless for the game’s first five innings by both Biedrzycki and Vlk, Naperville Central (2-3) didn’t record its first hit until senior shortstop Nick Ryan shot a single over second base to begin the sixth inning off Gerber.
Then as soon as a possible window of opportunity might be opening for the Redhawks, it suddenly slammed shut.
After junior Jeff Schank, who threw two scoreless innings in relief, failed to sacrifice Ryan to second, Nashert reached base on an infield single, moments before junior Blake Butler, who was pinch-running for Schank, got thrown out at third during the same sequence.
Redhawks’ junior catcher Brian Schiemann promptly fired a single into left field, which may have scored Butler from second, to put runners on first and second with two out.
However with perhaps the Redhawks’ best hitter, Ian Lewandowski, at the plate, Nashert was pegged down by Neuqua Valley junior catcher Dylan Goss in the midst of trying to advance to third on a wild pitch.
Gerber retired the Redhawks in order in the seventh to nail down the save for Neuqua Valley (3-3).
“I don’t think we competed at the plate like we need to [in order] to win a game like this. We need to put more pressure on them and come up with some big base hits,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stock said. “We just didn’t get that done (Saturday). I thought their kids pitched well. I thought our kids pitched well, too. But we just need to be a little bit more competitive at the plate.”