The Libertyville threat looked likely to pay off handsomely.
The Wildcats trailed Glenbrook North 6-3 in the fifth inning on Saturday, with the championship of the Class 4A Lake Zurich regional on the line.
The sacks were loaded for first baseman Matt Vogt, and he positively creamed one. It seemed destined to clear the bases. Until, that is, until Glenbrook North right fielder Paul Brandeisky positively robbed Vogt of extra bases with a nice catch.
Vogt got another chance, though. There were five outs left in Libertyville's season when he came to the plate in the sixth. This time, the senior kept the ball lower, and it paid off with a run-scoring double.
Libertyville (24-11) stunned Glenbrook North with a 4-spot in the sixth. The Wildcats had a strong relief effort from winner Mitch Townsend and beat the Spartans 7-6.
"I guess it's the best of both worlds,'' Vogt said. "It was frustrating when my ball was caught. But this time I just pulled it down the line."
Maybe Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said it best.
"It was a strange game,'' Schurr said.
Like, how did the Wildcats manage to score 3 first-inning runs with a hits batsman, walk, infield hit and an RBI groundout? Vogt had the only hard-hit ball of the inning.
And then the Spartans came right back in the home half of the first inning and didn't mess around, banging out 5 hits and scoring 4 runs.
Schurr also noted some funny things were going on in the Libertyville outfield. Senior center fielder Justin Guarnaccio saved the best for last with a sprawling catch in the fifth inning.
"He's the best defensive center fielder I've ever had, and he just missed on two tough catches,'' Schurr said. "And then he makes that diving catch."
Libertyville starter Jeff Barton shook off his rough first inning and tossed 2 hitless innings before the Spartans (24-12) added an insurance run in the fourth inning. And despite the gorgeous play from Guarnaccio, the Glenbrook North lead grew to 6-3 entering the sixth.
Townsend, a left-hander, entered the game in the fifth and allowed just 2 hits in 3 innings. He retired the last four Spartans hitters.
"I needed to get ahead of the hitters,'' Townsend said. "Once I got ahead, I started mixing it up."
The Wildcats had runners on base in every inning except the seventh, but a pair of double plays dissolved those rallies.
And then the sixth inning kicked in. With one out, Noah Greenberg notched a walk. He moved up a base when No. 9 hitter Matt Reed laced his third hit of the contest. Leadoff hitter Jimmy Govern also reached on a walk.
With two outs, Evan Skoug bounced a ball toward second base. It looked like the final out of the frame, but there was no one covering first base.
Kevin Calamari and Vogt made the Spartans pay for that miscue.
"It just shows the resiliency of these kids,'' Schurr said. "We could have gone in the tank but we never did."
"It was a good high school game,'' said Glenbrook North coach Dominic Savino. "Give credit to Libertyville. They found things to go their way."
The Wildcat had doubles off the bats of Vogt, Reed and Connor Simpson.
Next up for Libertyville is a 4:30 p.m. Wednesday game against Fremd in the semifinals of the sectional hosted by Glenbrook North. The Vikings beat Buffalo Grove 4-3 Saturday to win the St. Viator regional.