Baseball: Naperville Central uses six-run fifth to put away OswegoNaperville Central's Jeff Lucas fields a ground ball during their regional game agaisnt Oswego at Downers Grove South High School on Thursday, May 24, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 24, 2012 10:24PM
Without a doubt, Naperville Central feels extremely comfortable any time its senior right-handed ace, Ian Lewandowski, takes the mound.
Embroiled in a pitchers’ duel through the first four innings with his counterpart from Oswego, Jerome Minick, Minick was the first to blink in the bottom of the fifth.
Taking advantage of some of Minick’s control issues, fifth-seeded Naperville Central used a six-run fifth inning to run away from Panthers en route to a 9-4 victory in a Class 4A Downers Grove South Regional Semifinal on Thursday.
The Redhawks ran off nine unanswered runs after Tim Wodzisz RBI-triple in the second inning gave Oswego an early 1-0 lead.
“We’ve had a good amount of games where we’ve been 1-1, 1-2 throughout four or five innings and I always know our team is going to open it up, put a crooked number up towards the end of the game,” Lewandowski said. “So I just go out there and try and keep it as low as possible. I believe in our team that the runs are gonna come.”
Sending 10 men to the plate in the fifth, the Redhawks turned a 1-1 game into a 7-1 game on just one hit.
Minick issued five free passes in the inning, including bringing in two runs on back-to-back walks to Brian Schiemann and Blake Butler, and the Redhawks tallied three runs as Panthers’ center fielder Nick Gerber dropped a fly ball hit off the bat of Cody Campbell.
“For five innings, the game plan worked pretty well. We saw (Naperville Central) a couple times—they had trouble with the lefty, so Jerome kept them in check there pretty well,” Panthers’ coach Chris Neitzel said. “We’ve struggled offensively the whole year, so we knew we were gonna have to kind of keep it as a tight game. And then we let it get away from us a little bit there in that inning.”
Of the seven hits the Redhawks recorded on the afternoon, Butler came through with three of them.
“Both pitchers were throwing pretty well. (Minick) had trouble finding the strike zone towards the end there,” said Butler, who knocked in three runs while scoring a run. “It was just us trying to keep the pressure on (Minick), make him feel a little more uptight. Just get the bat on the ball and see what can happen.”
Minick, a sophomore left-hander, took the loss for Oswego (15-19-1) after going 4 2/3 innings, scattering six hits and getting charged with three earned runs while walking six and fanning four.
Lewandowski tossed his fifth complete game of the year after allowing four runs on seven hits while tying a season high with 11 strikeouts for the Redhawks.
“Ian battled for us. He didn’t have his good changeup (Thursday),” Naperville Central coach Mike Stock said of Lewandowski, who improved to 7-1. “It wasn’t a pitch that was used as well as it has been when it’s a real difference maker for us. So he battled with two pitches for most of the day.”
Taking advantage of their good fortune in the fifth and behind Lewandowski’s effort, Naperville Central (24-12) advances to Saturday’s Class 4A Downers Grove South Regional Final, with revenge squarely in its sight.
Its opponent on Saturday, Downers Grove South, eliminated it from the postseason last year with a 3-1 loss in a regional final.
“(We’re) hoping to take it to them,” Lewandowski said.