Libertyville star Evan Skoug joked that even he didn't know who Ben Manski was before catching the incoming junior lefty for the first time in Thursday's regional final against Carmel Catholic.
Skoug knows now. Perhaps so does Jim Hendry, as well.
The former Cubs general manager was a spectator during host Libertyville's 5-2 win that earned the defending Class 4A state runner-up Wildcats a berth in the Elite Eight of the Phil Lawler summer state tournament.
Libertyville, which was the No. 4 seed in its own regional, will play Huntley at 3 p.m. Monday in the double-elimination tourney at Benedictine University in Lisle. North Central College in Naperville will also host games.
"It's good to see that some of these younger guys are stepping up," said Skoug, who doubled and walked. "It's a good sign for next year, too."
When he was the head coach at Creighton University, Hendry coached Kevin Kristan, whose son Ian is a talented incoming senior catcher for Carmel, and the two have remained close friends. Hendry, who also knows Libertyville coach Jim Schurr, stood behind the backstop and stuck around the whole game.
Perhaps Hendry, who now works for the Yankees, inadvertently scouted a potential prospect in Manski, who pitched 52⁄3 effective innings in earning the win.
"That's cool," Manski said with a major-league smile.
Manski even helped himself at the plate, snapping a scoreless tie in the top of the third inning with a 3-run homer off University of Illinois-commit Quinten Sevcik. With Jimmy Govern (3-for-4) and Skoug aboard, the cleanup-hitting Manski pulled a fastball over the fence in right field.
It was his first homer of the summer.
"I didn't know it was going (over the fence), at first," Manski said. "It was a fastball down the middle."
"He was one of the hottest hitters on the sophomore team," Schurr said. "That's why he was hitting in the (No.) 4 hole. He's hit well for us all summer, both with the high school and (American) Legion teams."
Govern's RBI single off Sevcik in the fourth made it a 4-0 game. With Sevcik out of the game, Libertyville scored again in the fifth on a run-scoring double by Noah Greenberg (2-for-2, walk).
"The problem when you get into summer is you got the heavy workload between travel and your high school season," said Carmel coach Dann Giesey, whose Corsairs were the No. 2 seed. "I didn't think (Sevcik) had his good fastball today. He was at 91-92 (mph) during the Area Code (showcase). He definitely wasn't throwing that today."
Manski, in contrast, was fresh. Schurr said his young pitcher had not thrown in a game in 10 days.
"When he gets his opportunity to pitch, if he's well-rested, he's really good," Schurr said. "He had stuff today. He got his breaking ball over, got ahead in the count early with his fastball, located his fastball, and we made some plays behind him."
Libertyville's defense turned a 5-4-3 double play in the third and helped out Manski again in the Carmel sixth. A relay that went from right fielder Nick Rosetti to first baseman Mitch Townsend to Skoug cut down Nick Grandolfo (1-for-3, double) at the plate after Kristan ripped a double into the corner.
Carmel wound up scoring twice in the inning, as both Matt Skarzynski and Cal Coughlin (1-for-2, double) coaxed RBI walks.
Manski, who struck out five and walked four, departed after walking Skarzynski.
"My curveball was working," said the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Manski. "I could locate my fastball today."
"After he settled down a little bit and settled in, he started hitting spots and throwing everything for strikes," Skoug said.
Incoming junior righty Jack Shanahan earned the save for Libertyville, which will play the state tourney without Skoug. The Texas Christian commit will be on a mission trip in South Dakota with his church. Libertyville won the regional playing without top pitchers Jeff Barton and Andrew Mack.
"I put God first and then family and baseball," Skoug said. "I wish I could be here with my family (and the team) and win (the state tournament), but I know they're going to do great. I know 'R.J.' (Ryan Jackson) is going to step up and fill my role and the rest of the guys are going to pick me up."