Wheaton North is going to win the DuPage Valley Conference title on Wednesday.
What remains to be seen is whether the Falcons will wear the crown alone.
With just one game left in region play, Wheaton North (23-10, 16-4 DuPage Valley) holds a razor-thin one-game advantage over Naperville Central (21-11, 15-5). Wednesday marks the end of the conference season for both teams -- Wheaton North plays Wheaton Warrenville South and Naperville Central faces West Chicago -- which means that if the Falcons win, they'll be the DVC's sole champion.
A loss might mean sharing the title with the Redhawks.
"It's certainly something that everybody strives for at the beginning of the year," Wheaton North coach Dan Schoessling said. "You want to be the champion.
"We've got a chance to do it (Wednesday), and we've just got to see what happens."
That scenario might've been difficult to imagine early in the season, when Wheaton North's sloppy defensive play yielded a disappointing 4-5 start. But the Falcons ripped off wins in their first six DVC games and caught fire again two weeks ago, winning seven in a row -- including Tuesday's 7-6 victory over rival Wheaton Warrenville South.
Much of that resurgence can be credited to Wheaton North's improved defensive effort and its stellar pitching staff. Wheaton North's team ERA is a paltry 2.65 after Tuesday's game, and four pitchers -- seniors Ed Norris and Justin Harrington and juniors Sam Nafziger and River Williams -- have sub-3.00 ERAs in more than 26 innings of work.
"Our pitchers deserve a lot of the credit," Schoessling said. "They've kept us in games when we've needed it or when we haven't had a good day at the plate. They've been pretty consistent with holding the other team down and giving us a chance."
Wheaton North escaped two close calls in the past week as it tried to stay a step ahead of Naperville Central.
The first came on May 9, when Norris had to pitch nine innings of scoreless ball against Glenbard North before the Falcons were able to scratch across a run in a 1-0 win. The second came Tuesday, when Wheaton North trailed Wheaton Warrenville South 4-0 and 6-5 before rallying to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh and win it on a one-out solo home run by junior Ryan Kent in the eighth.
"Wild game," Schoessling said. "We've got a pretty resilient bunch of kids. They've proven over and over again that they can overcome a lot."
Naperville Central suffered a damaging 12-1 loss to DVC rival Naperville North on Thursday but rallied to beat West Chicago Monday and Tuesday and stay right behind Wheaton North. The Redhawks can grab a piece of the conference title with another win Wednesday and should be favored against West Chicago (6-27, 1-19).
Of course Wheaton North can make that game meaningless with a win over its biggest rival.
"Nothing special needs to be said," Schoessling said. "We're playing our main rival, and I know with our bunch they're going to do everything they can to get a win."
Glenbard South closes in on title:
Glenbard South entered this week's regular season-ending series with Illiana Christian needing two wins to claim the Metro Suburban Conference championship.
The Raiders won Tuesday, but it didn't come without a little drama.
Senior Mitch Gasbarro hit a two-out walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth -- following classmate Zach Bava's game-tying RBI single in the eighth -- and Glenbard South beat Illiana Christian 2-1. Gasbarro was 0-for-4 before the ninth inning, but he put the Raiders on the brink of a conference title by lining a 1-0 pitch over the center-field wall.
"He was struggling all game," Glenbard South coach Mike Riley said. "He finally got ahold of one."
Senior Brian Suffern picked up the win in relief, but Roger Dyrda kept the Raiders in the game with 8 innings of one-run ball. He scattered six hits and struck out five batters.
"He pitched a great game to keep us in it," Riley said.
Glenbard South (22-10, 14-2) needs to win one of its final two games to eliminate Illiana Christian, which is 13-3 in Metro Suburban play.
Hinsdale South rolling toward postseason:
Paul Hoel was sure of how good Hinsdale South could be, even when his players weren't.
Now, in the midst of an 18-game winning streak, nobody is questioning the Hornets.
"I think they doubted themselves a little bit," Hoel said of his team's preseason attitude. "I kept telling them, 'Guys, this is as good as it gets, this group we've got here.'
"They're believing it now. They're just rolling."
Hinsdale South (26-4-1, 16-2 West Suburban Gold) knocked off Proviso East Tuesday in its final league game of the season. The Hornets haven't lost since before the midway point of the season, when they were just 8-4.
In the meantime Hinsdale South has risen to the No. 3 spot in the Daily Herald's weekly Top 20 rankings and earned the program's first conference championship since 2004. Hoel coached that team -- which he said lost on a walkoff homer in the supersectional -- and said this year's Hornets made winning conference a priority.
"I've been telling these guys all along that they're as good as that (2004) team or better," Hoel said.
Hinsdale South has three nonconference regular-season games left on its schedule. The Hornets will be the No. 2 seed when the 4A Romeoville sectional starts next week.