Talk about a lack of luck.
On Mason Hallett's day to pitch for Naperville Central's baseball team, a gusty wind blew out to left field to welcome the start of a key three-game DuPage Valley Conference series against visiting Wheaton North on Wednesday.
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On top of that the Redhawks' vaunted offense - batting a collectively robust .356 - didn't have its normal swagger against Wheaton North sophomore starting pitcher Ed Norris.
Hallett still managed to put together a solid complete-game effort in leading Naperville Central to a 4-3 win over the Falcons, and he also helped the Redhawks build a two-game lead on Wheaton North atop the DVC standings.
"The wind was blowing out, I mean, I just had to go out there and do my thing and keep my composure," said Hallett, who improved to 3-0 after scattering 4 hits with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. "I knew I had to get focused and take one batter at a time. Just had to battle through it."
Wheaton North (20-5, 10-3) struck first with a run in the top of the first inning on Justin Swider's sacrifice fly, but the Redhawks (21-4, 12-1) tied it in the bottom half when Matt Cmiel doubled home Shane Conlon.
Naperville Central took advantage of some defensive lapses by the Falcons in the second inning and notched a pair of unearned runs off Norris, who allowed 9 hits and 2 earned runs while striking out five in 6 innings. Ryan Walsh's run-scoring single and Matt Soria's RBI groundout put the Redhawks ahead 3-1.
Nick Linne, who went 2-for-3 along with Walsh, drove in Naperville Central's fourth run with a third-inning single.
After striking early, though, the Redhawks couldn't create any additional offense. In fact they managed only two baserunners in the final three innings.
"I thought our approach today was bad," said Redhawks coach Bill Seiple. "We've got to be better at the plate. Honestly, we turned this thing over to Mason and Mason was terrific."
Reece Butler, who went 2-for-3, pulled Wheaton North within 4-3 in the fourth inning with a 2-run double. Like the Redhawks, though, they struggled at the plate late and put only one man on base in the final three innings.
The pivotal series continues in Wheaton today before finishing Friday in Naperville.
"You give their pitcher a lot of credit pitching on a day like today, and we didn't do too much with him," said Wheaton North coach Dan Schoessling. "The good thing is we battled today, we've got two more games against them the next two days, and I think we feel pretty good going into those games."