Yes, this is the same Downers Grove North baseball team.
It's the same team that won 16 of its first 19 games and lost eight of its last 11 to close the regular season. It's the same team that began that rough stretch by committing double-digit errors in a loss to cross-town rival Downers Grove South.
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It's the same team that avenged the loss in a major way on Wednesday.
Downers North advanced to the Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional final with an 8-0 victory over Downers South in Naperville. By knocking off the sectional's top seed, the fourth-seeded Trojans will face Thursday's winner between Neuqua Valley and Plainfield North.
Good old-fashioned pitching and defense got it done for Downers North (22-11), but mostly pitching. Senior right-hander Mike O'Malley threw a 4-hitter with 5 strikeouts and 5 walks while gutting out the complete game.
With an errorless defense behind him, it didn't take much offense to give O'Malley the room he needed.
"We played really poorly against South earlier in the year, so we wanted to get them back for that," O'Malley said. "The whole team just played real well today. There's a lot of things we can improve on but we're playing real well right now."
The cross-town rematch turned in Downers North's favor in the bottom of the second inning. Downers South (30-7) loaded the bases with no outs on 2 hits and a walk but O'Malley got a strikeout and flyouts to center fielder James Sheldon to escape unscathed.
The Trojans (22-11) carried that momentum into the top of the third by scoring 3 runs and batting around against Downers South starting pitcher Zack Burdi. Joe Provenzano and Troy Southard drove in runs before an error created the third run.
Downers South's Joe Becht led off the bottom of the third with a single -- the Mustangs' last hit of the game. O'Malley walked four batters over the final five innings but Downers South didn't put a runner in scoring position from the fourth through the seventh inning.
"They were better today, no question about it, in every facet of the game," said Downers South coach Darren Orel. "I can't explain it, we just weren't here today. We didn't have it. That bases loaded in the second inning, that comes back to haunt you. We didn't play well today, and they did."
Downers North used the long ball to add 5 runs to the lead in the seventh inning. Southard hit a solo shot and David Henson blasted a 3-run homer.
"It starts with Mike on the mound, and we played good defense behind him," said Trojans coach Chad Isaacson, whose program vies for its second sectional title on Saturday. "It was good that we were able to get a little breathing room because it's never over against a good team like that."
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