Baseball: David Gerber, Jeff Evak lead Neuqua Valley past Bolingbrook
Updated: May 26, 2012 5:55PM
If you ask any of Neuqua Valley’s players, they certainly won’t shy away from the fact that they have believed reaching the state tournament in Joliet has been a realistic goal since the season started.
Saturday just represented the next step towards making good on that season-long aspiration.
Thanks to a game effort from junior right-hander David Gerber and a timely three-run homer from junior Jeff Evak, third-seeded Neuqua Valley eliminated 11th-seeded Bolingbrook from the postseason with a 4-3 victory in the Class 4A Bolingbrook Regional final.
Keeping the momentum that was gleaned from stunting a Bolingbrook uprising and tying the game at 1-1 an inning earlier, Evak’s two-out blast over the left-field fence off Bolingbrook senior right-hander Brad Elmore in the fifth proved to be the eventual game-winning hit.
“(Elmore) gave me a fastball up in the chest and I knew I was up in the count, 2-1, so I knew I was gonna get a pitch to hit. He didn’t want to walk me,” said Evak, who went 2-for-3 and scored twice. “So I knew going in there, I was gonna get a pitch to hit. (Neuqua Valley coach Robin) Renner told me to take a hack at it and I did. I got lucky enough to put the bat on the ball, get it up in the wind.”
Ever the opportunistic offense, the Wildcats took advantage of a pair of Elmore walks in the fifth, courtesy of Evak’s second home run of the season.
Receiving help from Evak, who put the Wildcats in front for good, Gerber extended the Wildcats’ winning streak to 15 games by gutting through 5 1/3 innings before giving way to junior lefty Danny Mokrzycki and staff ace, senior Nick Blackburn.
Despite seeing his ERA rise from 0.90 to 1.21, Gerber (8-0) gave his teammates an opportunity to chip away at his counterpart, Elmore, by limiting the Raiders to three runs on five hits while fanning six.
Facing the minimum through three innings, thanks to a double play that ended the third, Gerber bore down in the fourth after the Raiders placed runners on second and third with nobody out by holding them to just one run.
“It was really huge. That was a big chance for them to shift the momentum their way,” he said. “And I kind of took a deep breath out there and (pitching) coach (John) Fumagalli and Coach Renner both said, ‘Take your time a little bit.’ And I was rushing a little bit, so just kind of relaxed and went pitch-by-pitch.”
Elmore, whose two homers against Naperville North on Thursday helped guarantee Bolingbrook (18-17) its first winning season since 1983, matched Gerber in the early going before blinking in the fifth.
Elmore (3-6) gave up all four runs on three hits while striking out eight in five innings.
“Brad threw well (Saturday) for us. We got away from our game with Naperville North, so we could match up with Neuqua Valley like this,” Raiders’ coach Chris Malinoski said. “He missed one spot (Saturday) and we know we can’t do that against good hitting teams like Neuqua (Valley).”
The fourth 30-win season in program history and the program’s seventh regional title now in hand, Neuqua Valley (30-7) advances to a fourth meeting with District 204 rival Metea Valley next Thursday in the second Class 4A Romeoville Sectional Semifinal.
“These guys that work so hard and put the time in and perform, I’m just truly blessed and truly fortunate to be a small part of it,” Renner said.