Lockport gets things rightPlainfield Central's Nick Woltkamp slides into second with a stolen as Lockport shortstop Tommy Hooks catches the ball in the Lockport Class 4A regional. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 26, 2011 10:59PM
The games generally are competitive.
Given that, the sudden-death nature of the high school baseball playoffs often comes down to one factor — execution.
Lockport demonstrated how important that is in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Plainfield Central in the semifinals of the Class 4A Lockport Regional at Lockport’s Ed Flink Field.
The Porters (24-12 and the sixth seed in the Neuqua Valley Sectional), who were stunned in the top of the fifth when Plainfield (11-21) scored twice to get even against Lockport senior left-hander Mike Hamilton, did the right things in the bottom of the inning to get those two runs back and re-establish momentum.
Ted Snidanko led off the fifth with a double off tough-luck loser Anthony Cunniff, and John Kosmowski reached on a sacrifice and error, then stole second.
Senior Matt Skrzypiec, hitting in the 3-hole, grounded out to second, driving home the go-ahead run and moving the insurance run to third. Cleanup man Austin Mastela, who had doubled home a run in Lockport’s two-run third, followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
“That’s playoff baseball,” said Lockport coach Andy Satunas, whose team will meet No. 3 seed Neuqua Valley at 10 a.m. Saturday in the regional final. “The games are close, so you have to execute and take advantage of your opportunities. We had the right guys up at the right time.
“It was nice to pick up Mike Hamilton like that.”
“There was the difference in the fifth inning,” Central coach Bob Dobbertin said. “We didn’t make a play, and they scored two runs on outs. If it’s 3-2 rather than 4-2 (after that inning), that changes everything.”
Instead, the Wildcats were forced to battle from two runs behind against a pitcher who kept their offense in check throughout. Central finished with three hits off Hamilton — an infield single, a bloop that fell in short left and Marc Young’s single that keyed the Wildcats’ two-run fifth.
With runners on second and third and one out, Hamilton had a 1-and-2 count on Young, a left-handed hitter, when he singled to center to make it 2-1. Nick Woltkamp’s squeeze bunt then tied it.
“I was ahead in the count and threw a good pitch, and Young threw his bat at it and hit it,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know how he did that, but he did.”
Hamilton struck out five and walked four, three in the final two innings. He had to retire Joe Sparacio, Central’s No. 3-hitter, with the tying runs aboard in the seventh to end it. Only two Wildcats flied out all day as the Lockport infield defense was busy.
“I kept the ball down pretty well and they did a good job not hitting the ball in the air with the wind blowing in,” Hamilton said. “I was struggling with my curve a little, but for the most part, the fastball and curve were there.
“Our offense executed when we needed to, which was great because they’re a good team. They really competed.”
“For the most part, our pitching was great and our defense was pretty good,” Dobbertin said. “Anthony (Cunniff) stepped up huge. But we gave them a couple extra opportunities, and against a good team, you can’t do that.”