Neuqua Valley's baseball team had completely different plans for its Tuesday afternoon at Naperville's North Central College.
As it turned out, though, two losses eliminated the Wildcats from the IHSBCA Phil Lawler Summer Classic. The day began with a tough 2-1 defeat to Prairie Ridge, and ended with a 10-5 elimination-game loss to Lincoln-Way North.
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Wednesday's semifinals will be played without Neuqua Valley, which advanced to last summer's Final Four. Maine South plays Lincoln-Way North at 5 p.m. at Benedictine University in Lisle, followed by a 7:30 p.m. game between Prairie Ridge and Marian Catholic.
The doubleheader disappointment spoiled a terrific opening day for the Wildcats, who soundly beat St. Joseph on Monday. After numerous missed opportunities against Prairie Ridge in their first game on Tuesday, all the steam was taken out of the Wildcats in their game against Lincoln-Way North.
"Without a doubt," said Neuqua Valley assistant coach John Fumagalli, filling in for out-of-town head coach Robin Renner. "That's a tough loss for either team in that situation."
It started in the top of the first inning when Prairie Ridge scored both its runs. A fly ball was lost in the sun, opening the door for an RBI groundout and a run-scoring single by Lucas Keller.
Jeff Evak narrowed Neuqua Valley's gap to 2-1 in the second inning with a sacrifice fly, but for the rest of the game the Wildcats struggled to convert on scoring chances. Two Neuqua Valley runners were picked off second base, and two runners were stranded at third base.
"We had guys on base, and it was pretty much the first game that killed it for us," said Wildcats shortstop Tanner Giesel, who had 2 of his team's 4 hits against Prairie Ridge. "The first inning they jumped on us and got 2 runs. We had opportunities the whole game to come back but we left guys on base in scoring position. We just didn't get the job done."
Lincoln-Way North, like Prairie Ridge, opened its game with Neuqua Valley by building a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. The Phoenix added 2 runs in the third inning and 6 runs in the fourth.
Neuqua Valley tried to rally with 5 runs in the final three innings, but Lincoln-Way North held on for the 10-5 win. Nick Blackburn went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI for the Wildcats while Brett Marsalli also drove in 2 runs.
"We have all the bats in the world in our lineup," said Phoenix first baseman Reed Hero, who had 2 RBI. "When people face us they say we have the hardest one-through-six lineup in the state."