Baseball: Strong pitching leads Neuqua Valley to sweep of Metea ValleyMetea second baseman Connor Archey makes a play to first for an out against Neuqua at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., on Saturday, April 21, 2012. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 21, 2012 8:11PM
Dropping three of its last four games on the heels of running off a nine-game winning streak, motivation shouldn’t have been an issue Saturday for Neuqua Valley.
Thanks to getting what it has for the majority of the year — solid pitching — Neuqua Valley took control of its doubleheader with Metea Valley right from the start and never let go.
Receiving a combined 13 innings of one-run and four-hit ball from its two starting pitchers, senior right-hander Nick Blackburn and junior left-hander Danny Mokrzycki, Neuqua Valley swept Metea Valley 5-0 and 7-1 on Saturday.
Setting the tone immediately with a pair of strikeouts in the first inning, Blackburn dominated the Mustangs in Game 1 as the Wildcats notched a 5-0 shutout behind Blackburn’s fourth complete game of the year.
Starting on three days’ rest after getting tagged with a tough one-run loss at Bartlett Tuesday, Blackburn (4-2) quickly erased memories of that setback by fanning eight while allowing just two hits.
“That game against Bartlett, we just had to put that behind us and I knew the next time I came out, I just had to keep doing what I’m doing — throw strikes, get ahead of hitters,” Blackburn said. “I knew that my (teammates) were gonna come through for me.”
Picking up right where the Illinois-bound Blackburn left off, Mokrzycki allowed Metea Valley’s lone run of the afternoon in the first inning of Game 2 before proceeding to shut down the Mustangs for the next five innings.
In his six innings of work, Mokrzycki (3-0) permitted the Mustangs to pick up just two hits and struck out seven.
“Our hitting approach right now isn’t good. Give credit to them — they threw strikes, but I think we helped them a lot,” said Metea Valley coach Craig Tomczak, whose troops fell to 7-11 overall and 4-8 in the Upstate Eight. “Nick (Blackburn) threw a great game. He’s one of the better pitchers in the area, but our recognition of pitches wasn’t real good. Too many strikeouts, not enough balls in play.”
After allowing Mustangs’ center fielder Ryan Solomon to knock in a run with a groundout to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game 2, Mokrzycki’s offense picked him up right away by putting up four runs in the game’s first three innings.
A two-run single from Nick Iarrobino in Game 2’s first inning put the Wildcats back in front at 2-1 and they wouldn’t trail during the rest of the afternoon.
“We haven’t really played to our top ability the entire week, so we really wanted to come out this weekend and just score as many runs as possible, hold them to as few runs (as we could) and get two wins,” said Iarrobino, who went 2-for-3 with the two RBI in Game 2. “Big shout-out to our pitchers. Nick Blackburn and Danny Mokrzycki pitched excellent, as well as (junior right-hander) Pat Kenny coming in and closing it (in Game 2).”
Offensively, Neuqua Valley (14-6, 10-2 Upstate Eight) pounded out a combined 15 hits in the doubleheader, with nine of them coming in Game 1.
Twelve of the 15 hits came off the Mustangs’ two starters, Tom Bolle (2-3) and John Calderon (0-3).
“Pitching and defense (was solid Saturday) and we hit just enough to put us in kind of a comfortable spot,” Neuqua Valley coach Robin Renner said.