The innings seemed to wilt away in the blazing heat as Benet's baseball team continued to trail Glenbard East.
Then Jon Kruppe stepped to the plate like a breath of fresh air in the top of the fifth.
Kruppe's 2-run go-ahead single sparked Benet to a 6-5 win over the Rams in the IHSBCA Glenbard South regional semifinals Wednesday in Glen Ellyn.
The Redwings advance to the regional title game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to face Plainfield East, a 15-4 winner over Willowbrook. The regional champion moves on to the Elite Eight of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic next week in Lisle and Naperville.
Also competing for a spot in the final eight will be Lake Park. The Lancers, who are hosting a regional, beat Schaumburg 4-1 behind the pitching of Colin Fowich and will play Huntley at 3 p.m. Thursday in Roselle.
"It just seemed like the game was coasting," said Benet coach Scott Lawler. "We talked to the guys and said, 'Hey, if we're going to go down let's go down swinging. Let's play aggressive and let's see what happens.'"
Glenbard East starting pitcher Tyler Behrendt maintained a 2-1 lead after an inning, stranding six runners through the first four innings. The Rams nearly escaped unscathed in the fifth, but Kruppe came through with his two-out, 2-run single on an 0-and-2 count to put the Redwings ahead to stay at 3-2.
Benet took advantage of a pair of sixth-inning errors to boost the advantage to 5-2, and then added a sixth run in the seventh inning on Cole Channell's RBI single.
Behrendt's run-scoring groundout and John Allen's 2-run single narrowed Glenbard East's deficit to 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh. It took three Benet pitchers but Bradley-bound Chris Whelan, Thursday's scheduled starter, finally notched a game-ending strikeout with the tying run at first base.
"I was really just focusing as hard as I could on just putting the ball in play," Kruppe said of his 2-run single. "That's the only chance you have of scoring a run there. Earlier in the game we didn't put the ball in play, and that was really just my focus in that situation."
Jason Blohm's RBI single spotted Benet to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Behrendt tripled home a run and Justin Griffin added an RBI to give Glenbard East a 2-1 lead after an inning. Redwings starter Pat Peterson settled down after that, firing four scoreless innings before being relieved in the sixth.
"Their pitcher threw a really good game but we kind of let him control the tempo of the game for two or three innings," said Glenbard East coach Joel Pelland. "He was in a good rhythm, and we had a couple of bad at-bats. That was the bad thing about getting things going at the end. There were a lot of little things we could learn from and take something away that we can get better at."
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