With this Neuqua Valley baseball team comebacks are no big deal.
With the wind howling out? Piece of cake.
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The Wildcats did it again, rallying from a 3-run deficit to beat Downers Grove North 12-4 and claim the Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional championship Saturday in Naperville.
By winning the program's fourth sectional title, its first since a third-place finish in 2008, Neuqua Valley advances to the University of Illinois supersectional to face the winner between Moline and Alton. Because that game was postponed due to weather on Saturday -- a game rescheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in Bloomington -- the time and date of the supersectional in Champaign are to be determined.
On Saturday, though, it was time to celebrate being the last team standing in one of the state's toughest sectional fields.
"Winning a regional is something really, really special," said Neuqua Valley coach Robin Renner. "Winning a sectional is extremely hard to do with the talent around this area. And they should be very proud. And I also thanked them because I get to be a very small part of something really cool."
After rallying from a 2-run deficit in Friday's semifinals, Neuqua Valley's trailed by 3 runs against fourth-seeded Downers North (22-12) when Matt Zaboudil launched a 3-run, second-inning homer and pitcher Troy Southard added a third-inning sacrifice fly to put the Trojans ahead 4-1.
Alex Wolanski began the comeback in the bottom of the third with an RBI double that was followed by Matt Butler's game-tying 2-run double. Drew Sterioti's RBI single staked No. 3 Neuqua Valley (29-9) and starting pitcher Danny Mokrzycki to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
"We knew with the wind blowing out we were going to have to put some runs on the board," said Butler, who went 2-for-3 with 4 RBI. "Danny did a good job of keeping them to four. We knew if we got enough runs for him, he'd shut the door."
Mokrzycki earned the win with 5 innings of work, helped tremendously by the Wildcats' 4-run fourth inning that put Neuqua Valley ahead 8-4. Dylan Goss' 2-run single was the key hit in the outburst.
"We talked before the game about being aggressive, especially getting down early," Goss said. "We wanted to come out swinging, and it worked out for us. We had a lot of at-bats still to go, so there was no reason to panic."
Jeff Evak doubled home the Wildcats' ninth run in the fifth inning. Butler added another RBI double in the sixth before Josh Piotrowski hit a 2-run homer to extend the margin to 12-4.
Like in Friday's win, David Gerber closed out the victory by retiring all six batters he faced in 2 innings. Gerber struck out four as he and Mokrzycki combined on a 3-hitter.
"They were able to add on, and then we were chasing," said Downers North coach Chad Isaacson. "If you look back at all our games, we weren't in chase mode at all except for one time in the regional championship. We were on the defensive from there on out, but I'm proud of our effort."
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