With the way things started Saturday against visiting Addison Trail, it seemed Willowbrook might be blown out at its own field.
The visiting Blazers touched Warriors ace Alex Tiberi for 2 runs in the first and added another in the second for a 3-0 lead. With unbeaten lefty Mike Imperiale on the mound for the Blazers, the first game of Saturday's doubleheader looked like Willowbrook might struggle to keep things close.
Instead, Tiberi (3-1) settled down nicely and the home team battled before eventually falling 4-2, leaving coach Vic Wisner's snakebit team with its ninth loss already this spring by 2 runs or less.
The Warriors broke the streak in the second game with a 3-0 victory. Dave Cericola (3-0) struck out 8 in a 3-hitter.
Willowbrook (8-10, 5-3 West Suburban Gold) would have been even closer in Game 1 if a tight call or two had gone its way. One Blazers run was originally ruled an out at the plate on a great throw home by center fielder Dom Battaglia but later ruled a run when the umpire determined that the ball came loose. A Warriors rally in the fifth inning then was stricken by a pickoff play with two runners on, but a play in which the Warriors faithful felt there might have been a balk.
Wisner felt the Blazers did a better job than his team out of the gates on an afternoon in which the teams didn't open play until 2 p.m. due to the ACT.
"Both teams were out of their routine, but they settled down first," Wisner said of Addison Trail, which moved to 4-1 in league play and 9-7-1 overall.
Imperiale may not have had his best stuff on the mound on Saturday, but he was plenty good mixing curves and changeups in with his fastball. It didn't hurt that he was 3-for-3 at the plate with walk and an RBI triple that led to two runs in the first. With a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Imperiale gave up a leadoff double to Cal Moltzan and one out later walked back-to-back Warriors before giving way to Anthony Kalbas.
Kalbas got a pair of groundouts to limit the Warriors to one run and then closed out the game with a scoreless seventh after Willowbrook had two runners reach to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs.
"My teammates helped out a lot," Imperiale said. "My grandma came up to me afterward and said (Kalbas) saved me and that I was lucky. I was like, 'You're supposed to be on my side.' "
Blazers coach Steve Gilliam is just happy to have Imperiale on his side.
"Mike didn't have his best stuff out there, but he's a competitor. That's what he does," Gilliam said.