LOVES PARK -- Oak Park-River Forest senior left-hander Zach Weigel could not afford to lose his cool in Monday afternoon's first Class 4A Rockford supersectional at RiverHawks Stadium.
Weigel was locked in a tremendous pitcher's duel with Highland Park lefty Brett Shimanovsky that was scoreless into the bottom of the sixth inning. But the Seton Hall-bound Weigel didn't let the pressure affect him.
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Weigel drew a one-out walk in the sixth to score the only run and left the tying run at third with his fourth strikeout as the Huskies (29-9) advanced to the state tournament for the 13th time with a 1-0 victory over the underdog Giants (20-20). They will play in Friday's 3 p.m. state semifinal at Joliet's Silver Cross Field against Grant, a 7-0 winner over Schaumburg.
"My last two starts hadn't been too good and I wanted to get a good one down," Weigel said after allowing just 3 hits to improve to 7-1. "Composure. I need to keep calm and not let things build up and get emotional."
Oak Park coach Chris Ledbetter said it showed after Weigel missed a couple of weeks late in the season with arm tenderness.
"He rattled himself (in his last start) and it happened very briefly today," Ledbetter said. "Before the game we told him when he's relaxed his stuff is too good. Not a lot of teams are going to put solid contact on him."
There wasn't much against the hard-luck Shimanovsky either as he fell to 1-8 despite allowing only 2 hits. He left runners at second and third in the second to start a start a streak of 11 hitters retired but lost Weigel on an 0-2 count for a one-out walk in the sixth.
Jack Picchotti was hit by a pitch and Nick Kowalczuk grounded a go-ahead double past third base.
"He was a great pitcher," Weigel said. "We wanted to get him out of his windup and offset his momentum."
Highland Park, which won its first sectional title since 1969, threatened in the third but Jason Goldstein lined out to center with runners at first and second. Goldstein also lined a single in the first and was hitting in the sixth when Daniel Oversen tried to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt and was thrown out by Picchiotti.
Goldstein then walked by Christian Biondi grounded into a double play. Harrison Carl started the seventh with a bloop single and reached third but Wiegel struck out Jake Rubin to send the Huskies to state for the first time since they took second in 2008.