It was one of those days where you were glad to have the last at-bat.
As it turned out, though, Neuqua Valley's baseball team didn't need it. Tanner Giesel got the job done in the bottom of the sixth.
Giesel's solo home run to lead off the inning powered the Wildcats to a 9-8 win over Benet in Wednesday's Glenbard South regional semifinals.
Neuqua Valley has a chance to make its second straight trip to the Elite Eight of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic when the Wildcats face Naperville Central at 10 a.m. Thursday for the regional title.
"It's a big confidence booster for our team," Wildcats pitcher and designated hitter David Gerber said of Thursday's opportunity. "As a team we all want to win. We really want to go far this year. We're ready to go."
Benet held leads of 2-0, 5-2 and 7-6 while the Wildcats lost leads of 6-5 and 8-7. After home runs by Benet's Chris Stout and Neuqua Valley's Giesel, Gerber and Dylan Goss, the game seemed up for grabs.
Gerber, however, settled things down on the mound with 3-plus innings of strong relief. A one-two-three top of the seventh allowed Giesel's go-ahead home run to hold up.
"It was a wild game," said Wildcats coach Robin Renner. "We came in thinking it was a great day to hit."
The teams combined for 22 hits including a 2-for-3 effort with 3 RBI by Benet's Sam Santa Maria. Jack Amaro went 3-for-4 for the Wildcats while Goss drove in 5 runs highlighted by his third-inning grand slam.
Naperville Central 12, Willowbrook 1:
The Redhawks scored in five innings while rolling to a 12-1 six-inning victory over Willowbrook in Wednesday's second semifinal game at Glenbard South.
In three regional wins this week, Naperville Central's potent offense has scored 29 runs.
"We started hitting the ball better at the end of the summer, but we never had everyone together like we do now," said Redhawks coach Mike Stock. "We're battling at the plate, but I still think we could be better."
After a 2-run top of the first inning, Naperville Central kept tacking on runs. The Redhawks opened an 8-1 lead with a 5-run fourth, powered by Brian Scheimann's 2-run single and run-scoring hits by Ian Lewandowski and Nick Lopez. Steve Pettey's 2-run double in the sixth put the Redhawks ahead 12-1.
Schiemann and Lopez each went 3-for-4 while Steven Ferguson drove in Willowbrook's lone run in the second inning with an RBI single. It was one of only 3 hits allowed by Redhawks winning pitcher Jeff Schank, who struck out four and walked two.
"We had a lot of runners in scoring position and we took advantage of that," Schiemann said. "We just got the pitches we wanted and we hit them."