Lincoln-Way North rolls into finalLincoln-Way North's Bo Venezio delivers a pitch against Maine South during the Phil Lawler Summer Classic semifinals at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., on Wednesday, July 27, 2011.
| Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 4, 2011 11:42AM
Talking to Maine South coach Bill Milano following Wednesday’s semifinal game, Lincoln-Way North coach Joe Skarbek smiled at the compliment that was offered.
After Skarbek’s North squad pounded 15 hits in an 11-3 win at Benedictine University in Lisle, Milano stated simply that North was the best hitting team he had seen all summer.
“That’s a nice thing to say, and the unbelievable thing is they are almost all juniors,” Skarbek said. “Guys like Reed Hero, Josh Reid have gotten really hot lately. We’re tough up and down that lineup.”
Lincoln-Way North will play in the championship of the Phil Lawler Classic in the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association playoffs at Benedictine at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of the Marian Catholic vs. Prairie Ridge winner.
While the whole Phoenix lineup is hot, no one has been hotter than Hero. After going 5-for-7 in two games Tuesday with five RBI, the junior continued his tear at the plate Wednesday.
Hero went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run that started the scoring, finishing with four RBI overall.
“I’m just seeing the ball great, especially out of the pitcher’s hand,” Hero said. “If it is a curveball, I’m taking it and waiting on that fastball and driving it.”
Lincoln-Way North (20-4) capitalized in the first when the Maine South defense was unable to turn a double play that would have ended the inning. Instead, Hero came up with a runner on and made the Hawks pay.
The first baseman blasted a fastball he saw over the left field fence. Dominic Hartman’s RBI single on a hit and run play brought Jack Troike home as North took an early 3-0 lead.
The lineup was far from done, putting a six-spot on the board in the fourth inning highlighted by two-run doubles each from Hero and Reid (3-for-4, 2 runs, 2 RBI).
“Our lineup up and down can just hit,” Hero said. “I guess it is contagious. One person gets on, and we pick him up right away, just keep things rolling.”
North starter Bo Venezio had more than enough offensive support on the mound, throwing a complete game with just two strikeouts. The senior allowed eight hits, giving up a run in the third and two in the seventh.
With Maine South (18-11) threatening, though, with two runners on basse in the bottom of the seventh, Venezio got the Hawks to hit into a fielder’s choice and pop up to shallow right field to end the game.
“Bo will throw strikes, just a ton of strikes,” Skarbek said. “He’s not afraid to take something off and pitch to contact. He did such a nice job for us, and that’s a perfect combination for him.”
Now after losing its tournament opener Monday, the Phoenix is poised to pull off the program’s first summer state championship. According to Hero, it is North’s to win or lose no matter the opponent.
“The only thing that will slow us down is our heads,” Hero said. “If we just stay in the game, we’ll be fine.”