Baseball: West Aurora makes early lead stand upWest Aurora's Ricky Rivera races home against Batavia at West Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill., on Saturday, April 14, 2012.
| Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 14, 2012 8:18PM
West Aurora and Batavia were mirror images of each other in their nonconference battle at the Blackhawks’ diamond.
Both teams got good pitching, defense and a mixture of a little small ball and power. West took an early lead and was able to hold on for a 3-2 victory, the third straight this week for the Blackhawks.
There was only one error in the well-played game, and that was a throwing error that came after a great stop by Blackhawk third baseman Alex Pope. Both teams flashed some leather. Batavia catcher Steve Durham made an outstanding play on a bunt, while West Aurora got a great play in the hole by shortstop Richie Renner on a ball that deflected off Pope’s glove.
But the key play came when Blackhawk left fielder Eric Bauer ran down a Sam Burnoski fly at the left field fence that would have scored the tying run in the fifth inning.
West Aurora (5-9) jumped on Bulldogs starter Austin Shanahan in the first inning. Renner reached on a walk and was bunted to second by Adam Lipscomb, the first of three sacrifice bunts by the Blackhawks. Renner then scored on a ground single to right by Ricky Rivera. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, Rivera crossed the plate on an opposite-field single by Josh Livingston to put West up 2-0.
Junior pitcher Ryan Mooney, starting in his first varsity game, breezed through the Batavia lineup for the first three innings. But the fourth inning loomed as a possible turning point after Shanahan had struck out two batters to strand runners at second and third in the prior half inning.
“That’s the sort of thing that has been biting us all season,” West Aurora coach John Reeves said of the missed opportunity.
Burnoski led off the fourth with a home run over the left field fence to cut the lead in half. Then sophomore Micah Coffey ripped a double down the right field line. But Mooney, a junior, bore down and retired the next three Bulldog hitters. He scattered four hits in five innings to get the win.
“Our pitching has been outstanding all season long,” said Reeves. “Ryan gave us five solid innings. And Chris Hawks came in — he seems to have a rubber arm. He throws hard and executes his pitches.”
First baseman Sam Hollon restored the two-run lead with a long home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Bulldogs (6-6) responded with a run in the fifth on base hits by Austin Higgins and sophomore Laren Eustace.
Hawks came in for the sixth inning, and the 5-foot-6 junior turned up the velocity. He got the save by retiring all six batters, including a nasty curve for a strikeout in the seventh inning.
“The guys have changed their mindset after coming into the season with high expectations,” Reeves said of his team which came off a successful summer season. “Let’s just play ball. The more relaxed attitude has improved our defense quite a bit.”
Shanahan was outstanding in defeat, allowing only five hits while striking out 11 in a complete-game effort.
It was the final game of a week that saw the Bulldogs play a varsity game every day, all on the road.
“We ran out of gas today,” Batavia coach Matt Holm said. “We play very clean baseball, but we just haven’t been hitting. It’s harder to play from behind, so we have to figure out a way to get off the bus a little better. Give credit to West for doing a good job pitching and getting guys in scoring position.”