Hero leads way as Lincoln-Way North advances
Updated: July 26, 2011 7:44PM
Playing from behind is a habit that doesn’t seem to get old for Lincoln-Way North.
The Phoenix dug themselves a hole in the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Phil Lawler Classic by losing their opener on Monday and falling three runs behind St. Viator on Tuesday morning. But then North’s bats started booming and before you knew it, they had a pair of wins and a berth in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Lincoln-Way North rallied to beat St. Viator 6-4 and then eliminated Neuqua Valley 10-5 at North Central College in Naperville to set up a meeting with Maine South (18-10) at 5 p.m. at Benedictine University in Lisle. The winner advances to Thursday’s summer state title game vs. the Prairie Ridge/Marian Catholic survivor.
Cleanup hitter Reed Hero lived up to his name for Lincoln-Way North (19-3) with a 5-for-7, four-RBI day that included three hits and two RBI vs. St. Viator and two more hits, including a two-run single in the first, against Neuqua Valley (24-10).
“I’ve been seeing the ball (well) lately,” he said. “It’s been lighting up in my eyes. I’m looking up the middle, not trying to do too much. Just get those runners over and get some RBI.”
It helps that it’s not all on him to get the job done at the plate, as seven Phoenix hitters had multiple hits, runs or RBI in the win over Neuqua Valley. Also contributing were Corey Krupske (1-for-2, 2 walks, 2 runs), Josh Reid (2-for-4, 2 runs), Ryan Pellack (2-for-4, run, 2 RBI), Jack Troike (3-for-4, 2 runs), Carter Bialka (2-for-3, walk, 2 runs) and Josh Handzik (1-for-3, hit by pitch, 2 RBI).
That offensive balance, plus a deep mound staff, has allowed the Phoenix to bounce back from the occasional mis-step.
“We’ve got enough pitchers and we’ve got all the bats in the world in our lineup,” Hero said. “People say when they face us, we have the hardest 1-though-6 lineup in the state.”
Lincoln-Way North opened a 10-0 lead vs. Neuqua with two runs in the first, two in the third and four in the sixth. That was plenty of cushion for Alex Lesiak, who went 5 2/3 innings for the win. He gave up three runs on nine hits, walking three and striking out four. Kevin Wilson, who retired the last six hitters he faced to earn the save vs. St. Viator, came back to work the final 1 2/3 innings against Neuqua Valley.
Nick Blackburn was 3-for-4 with two RBI for Neuqua Valley (24-10), while Brett Marsalli went 2-for-4 with two RBI.