The few times Christian Taugner finds himself in a jam, he always manages to find that extra gear.
It's not a pretty sight for opponents.
Behind another masterful pitching performance from its senior ace, Lake Park moved a step closer to the Upstate Eight Conference baseball title with Tuesday's 6-0 victory over Waubonsie Valley in Roselle.
If the Lancers (23-7, 19-4) win one of their next two games against Waubonsie Valley (15-13, 13-10) they'll clinch at least a share of their first UEC championship since 1996. Lake Park, however, can edge out Neuqua Valley for the outright title by sweeping the Warriors the next two days.
Taugner did his job on Tuesday, pitching a 4-hitter with 11 strikeouts and 2 walks. Raising his record to 8-1, the Brown-bound right-hander now has 94 strikeouts, 7 walks and a 0.61 ERA.
"It's always good to get that first one out of the way," Taugner said. "We knew this was going to be a hard-fought series that could ultimately decide the conference championship. We're just taking it one game at a time. Now we've got this first one, we'll go in there tomorrow and see how that goes."
Waubonsie Valley starter Tyler Hasper matched Taugner through four scoreless innings before Lake Park took command in the bottom of the fifth by breaking through for 4 runs. Tom Spear's 2-run single broke the deadlock before Taugner tripled home a run and Eric Vatch added an RBI single.
Taugner responded with a 1-2-3 9-pitch top of the sixth before the Lancers added a pair of insurance runs on Spear's run-scoring single and an error that brough home Devin Rybacki from first base.
After walking the leadoff batter in the top of the seventh, Taugner notched a pair of strikeouts and coaxed a groundout to end the game. Taugner retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced, striking out six of them.
"The back end of our schedule has been very very good for us," said Warriors coach Dan Fezzuoglio. "To try to get ready for the tournament and be resilient. How resilient can you be? If you're going to win a regional, you've got to beat a guy like Taugner. It's just that simple. That's what it comes down to."
Waubonsie Valley stranded runners on first and second with one out in the second inning, and runners on first and third with one out in the fourth when Tad Wegner and Luke Marzano had back-to-back singles. Both times Taugner struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
"He's just a special pitcher," said Lake Park coach Dan Colucci. "If we can get him a couple of runs we've got a real good shot at the game."
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