Going left was oh-so-right. At least it was for the Stevenson baseball team.
The Patriots dipped outside of their typical rotation and started junior relief pitcher Mitchell Goll in Saturday's regional championship game against host Carmel.
With five lefties in the Corsairs' batting order, Stevenson coach Paul Mazzuca decided to counter with a southpaw of his own. Goll, a lanky lefty, got his first start of the season just last week, in preparation for a potential playoff matchup with Carmel. All he did was take down North Suburban Conference champion Mundelein.
"Before the Mundelein game, I had come out of the bullpen the whole year," Goll said. "But Coach told me, even way at the beginning of the season, that a regional championship game against Carmel would be a good game for me to start because of all of their lefties. Lefty versus lefty, I think I've got the advantage."
Goll certainly did this time around.
He pitched a complete game in leading Stevenson to a 7-2 regional championship win over Carmel. The Patriots improve to 20-11 and will face Glenbrook South at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in the semifinals of the Glenbrook North sectional. Glenbrook South won the Deerfield regional on Saturday by defeating Palatine, 9-6.
"We played Carmel back in March and when they handled us pretty good with all those lefties, we knew that if things lined up (in the playoffs), this would be Mitch's game," Mazzuca said of Goll, who rolled up 8 strikeouts and gave up 5 hits, only one of which came after a shaky first inning. "He pitched real well against Mundelein. We knew he had the stuff to shut down a great team like Carmel, it was just a matter of executing.
"You could tell he was a little nervous early on today. But we made some trips to the mound to kind of relax him and get him going again and he pitched very well."
Meanwhile, Carmel, which wrapped up its season with a 25-10 record, struggled at times on the mound, using a total of three pitchers in an effort to find the right look.
Stevenson had two big innings, one against starter Matt Ryan in the fourth inning and another against reliever Joey Lehman in the sixth.
Down 2-1 in the top of the fourth, the Patriots regained the lead when designated hitter Zach Novoselsky belted a two-out double into centerfield that brought in 2 runs. Stevenson then scored 4 runs on just 2 hits in the sixth, taking advantage of 3 walks and 2 errors in the inning.
"We got some guys on (in the fourth) and I just kind of waited back and drove a pitch that I liked and got us going a bit," Novoselsky said. "I did some individual stuff, but it was really about how we played as a team today. That's how we won."
Up until Novoselsky's double, Ryan had given up only one other hit. But he had walked 8 batters and hit one with a pitch. Having just come back from a two-week layoff that was designed to help improve chronic tendonitis in his elbow, Ryan was a bit out of sync.
"I got the tendonitis in my elbow last year and it just gets sore real fast," Ryan said. "About a month ago, I threw a complete game against Joliet Catholic on a Saturday and then came back and threw another complete game on a Thursday against St. Viator, and ever since then, it just hasn't been the same and the tendonitis came back. I tried to pitch through it, but eventually I just had to shut it down for the last two weeks.
"You can call it rust, you can call it whatever. There's really no excuses. I felt good coming in, it wasn't that. My arm had nothing to do with it. Maybe if I didn't have to (sit out for two weeks) it would have been different. But I battled, I did everything I could. I have no regrets about it."
Neither does Carmel coach Dann Giesey, who would start his ace again in a heartbeat. Ryan, who signed with St. Louis University before the season began, went 4-2 on the mound this season and was tough to hit when healthy.
"Matt had been lights out all season long (before the tendonitis came back)," said Giesey, whose 2 runs were scored by Nick Grandolfo and Tyler Murphy in the first inning. "Coming in today, he was rusty. But he's a senior and he's been absolutely tough as nails. He's always been our big-game pitcher.
"Even though we knew it was kind of a risk (to start Ryan) because of the time off, we knew he was the one we wanted to have on the hill at this moment. We wouldn't second-guess ourselves. Matt's been a bulldog all year and he battled today. It just didn't work out."