Baseball: Plainfield South walks-off on Rick Salazar’s single
Updated: May 24, 2012 8:53PM
On a Thursday afternoon when one might have expected significant offensive fireworks, Plainfield South junior Tyler Butler and senior Rick Salazar waited for a dramatic finish to take advantage of the conditions.
With the wind howling out in gusts of more than 40 mph, Butler powered a solo home run over the left-center field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
Then after Joliet West scored to tie it in the top of the seventh, Salazar cracked a walkoff single off the fence in left-center with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the inning and Plainfield South prevailed 3-2 in a Class 4A Minooka Regional semifinal.
The reward for the second-seeded Cougars (22-13) is a 10 a.m. meeting Saturday with No. 1 seed and Southwest Prairie Conference rival Minooka for the regional title. South won two of three in their SPC series.
The bats of Butler and Salazar decided a pitchers’ duel between South senior right-hander Julian Clouse and West junior right-hander Jake Herron. Clouse finished with a three-hitter and struck out nine. Herron allowed six hits and fanned 12.
“Being a former pitcher, you don’t like the wind in your face except if you’re a knuckleballer,” Plainfield South coach Phil Bodine said. “And the thing about Julian is he wasn’t supposed to pitch today. But our sophomore lefty, Trevor Henderson, who has been even a little better than Julian, was not ready arm-wise.”
Bodine said he hopes Henderson is ready Saturday.
The game was tied 1-1 in the second inning and stayed that way until Butler unloaded on a 2-and-0 fastball.
“Butler’s been our best hitter the past couple weeks,” Bodine said. “We knew if he got in a good count and got a fastball he could drive it.”
Salazar’s game-winner, which Joliet West center fielder Jeff Gersch came within several feet of chasing down, came after Herron registered a strikeout for the second out of the inning.
“He threw me curves the whole game and he had me off in my timing,” Salazar said. “But there’s nothing like the feeling when you hit it so solidly that you can’t feel it hit the bat.”
“Rick has struggled this year in clutch situations,” Bodine said. “I just told him it doesn’t matter now. Nobody will remember anything but this one.”
West coach John Karczewski called it “the toughest day of my life,” a tribute to the seniors who helped the Tigers (20-15) to a co-championship in the SouthWest Suburban Blue.
“We just didn’t come through in clutch situations,” he said. “A couple miscues and no timely hitting. That’s been the story when Jake (Herron) pitches. We haven’t given him much support.”