Baseball: Lake Park edges Neuqua Valley in pitchers’ duelLake Park's Nicholas Turner is tagged out at first base by Neuqua Valley's Joe Grabarits on Thursday, Apr. 26, 2012. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 26, 2012 8:24PM
Every time Nick Blackburn takes the mound, Neuqua Valley knows it has a great opportunity to win.
The Illinois-bound Blackburn has continually demonstrated his ability to be a true ace and a stopper when times aren’t going well for the Wildcats.
Unfortunately, for Blackburn and the rest of his teammates, his opposite number on Thursday was just a little bit better.
Bolstered by a complete-game effort from junior right-hander Christian Taugner, Lake Park did enough off Blackburn to register a 2-1 victory over Neuqua Valley in Naperville.
Outdueling Blackburn while scattering six hits, Taugner kept the Wildcats at bay for much of the afternoon.
“All my pitches were really good. I threw a couple changeups that were really good in there,” Taugner said. “My fastball, I felt like I was bringing in a little higher than I usually do. I don’t know. I was just around the strike zone.”
Fanning eight, Taugner (5-2) persevered every time it appeared Neuqua Valley (15-7, 11-3 Upstate Eight Valley) might get to him.
Stranding runners on base in each of the last three innings, including leaving the potential tying run at second to end the game, he slowed down a Wildcats’ offense that had combine to score 16 runs in its three-game sweep of Metea Valley.
“You’re looking at a Division I pitcher and a future Division I pitcher on the mound and it was just a well-pitched, well-played game,” Lake Park coach Dan Colucci said. “Christian has been our man all year. He’s 5-2 right now, but he could easily be 7-0. Only two losses were close games and we didn’t score any runs for him.”
On Thursday, two runs proved to be enough as Lake Park (13-9, 9-5 Upstate Eight) manufactured a run in the top of the third to take a 1-0 lead and took advantage of a Blackburn throwing error in the sixth to take the lead for good.
For the second time in his last three starts, Blackburn (4-3) was resigned to accepting his fate as the loser in a 2-1 game, on the heels of being on the short end of a 2-1 decision at Bartlett on April 17.
Striking out nine Lake Park hitters and scattering four hits, his afternoon was marred by throwing error that allowed Nick Turner, who had walked with one out, to advance to third before eventually scoring on a RBI single to left from Anthony Gallina.
“We’ll start clicking on offense. I’m not worried about it,” Blackburn said. “But it’s games like these, without the run support, every pitch I make is crucial and I’d definitely rather take the run support and be able to have a little bit of a lease on my pitches. But, as an offense, we’ll come together.
“It’s my fault, too. It was an error on me and I was 0-for-3 at the plate. But we’ll come together. I’m not worried about it. We’ll bounce back.”
The Wildcats’ only run of the game came in the bottom of the third, courtesy of a RBI double from Tanner Giesel that scored Jack Amaro and tied the game 1-1.
Scoring two runs or less for the third time in their last seven games underscores a problem Wildcats coach Robin Renner has been seeing his charges go through at different points throughout the year.
“Well, it’s kind of our M.O. When we see a good pitcher, we don’t hit,” Renner said. “We see average pitching, we hit. And if we want to go where we think we can go, then we’re gonna have to change. Simple as that.”