Baseball: Minooka Knocks out Plainfield CentralMinooka’s Carson Neushwander (7) rounds the bases after hitting a HR against Plainfield Central
in the first inning Wednesday in Minooka, May, 23, 2012.| Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
Beginning with the second inning, Minooka’s Carson Neushwander said he felt much more comfortable as he manned his position in right field.
“With (Josh) Jimenez throwing, you could just feel that a lot of the stress was off your chest,” he said.
Neushwander belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning Wednesday and Max Brozovich went back-to-back two pitches later, powering Minooka to a 3-0 victory over Southwest Prairie rival Plainfield Central in the semifinals of the Class 4A Minooka Regional.
The Indians (23-13) will play the winner of Thursday’s Plainfield South vs. Joliet West semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday for the regional championship and a berth in next week’s sectional at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Central (23-13-1) came in as the No. 4 seed while Minooka was No. 1. The Indians have won four of five match-ups between the two, and three times it was with senior left-hander Jimenez (9-2) spinning his magic.
“We made an error in the first inning that scored, and they hit a couple of balls well that flew out,” first-year Wildcats coach John Rosner said. “They’re a good club, and once again we were stuck on zero (against Jimenez).
“Playoff baseball is all about timely hitting, and we didn’t get any today. But I am proud of these guys. With a new regime, they busted their tails to be successful.”
Central right-hander Tim Blake was Jimenez’s equal, save the two pitches Neushwander and Brozovich turned around.
“I hit a fastball after he threw me a curve on the first pitch,” Neushwander said. “He didn’t give me much after that, mostly curves.”
Central stranded two runners in the first and third innings, but Jimenez and the Indians defense responded. Jimenez allowed five hits and struck out 11, and right-hander Mitch Vogrin entered with a runner on and nobody out in the seventh and struck out two more.
“Coming in I was obviously nervous and amped up,” Jimenez said. “I was trying to overthrow in the first inning. But after we got a few runs, I calmed down.”
“What I love about Josh is how he uses any of his pitches at any point of an at-bat,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “Some high school kids don’t like to throw their second pitch when they get behind.”
Joe Sparacio had two of Central’s five hits. Jimenez struck him out on an 11-pitch at-bat to open the sixth inning after falling behind in the count 3-and-0.
“He kept fighting them off and I finally got him on a curve,” Jimenez said.
Nick Fleischauer’s fourth-inning double was the only Minooka hit other than the homers. The Indians stranded only two.