Mundelein's top-notch baseball program finally has a top-notch field, so temperatures barely about freezing Wednesday weren't about to deny the Mustangs the chance to finally play a game on it.
Gray skies and 3 uncharacteristic errors aside, Mundelein had a memorable day, defeating Wheeling 8-1 as starting pitcher Dillon O'Donoghue and three relievers combined on a 3-hitter.
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"It's awesome getting the first win on this field," said junior left fielder Luke Peterson, who went 3-for-4 with his first of 2 doubles driving in the tying and go-ahead runs in the third inning. "We put a lot of work into this last summer. This really means a lot to us because we pretty much built this field. There were no workers hired. It was pretty much us, day in and day out, like eight-hour days."
Mundelein's field now features a bricked backstop, new dugouts and a tall screen behind home plate that makes for better sightlines and will save windshields of cars parked in the adjacent lot.
The Mustangs want to continue to put a first-class product on their first-class field, and they're 8-0 thanks to their win over Wheeling (4-3).
"We did some decent things, but we got a long way to go," Mundelein coach Todd Parola said. "Defensively, we had some breakdowns. Pitchers got to work fast in this kind of weather. You don't want your defense standing around looking at their feet."
Wheeling's attempt to spoil its opponent's home opener got off to a promising start, as Nathan Cooney led off the game with a double. One out later, Cooney scored when Illinois-commit Brenden Spillane split the right-center gap for a triple.
"We couldn't ask for a better start in the first inning," Wildcats coach Jason Wieder said. "Cooney and Spillane hit two rockets, but then we got a little cold."
O'Donoghue heated up, stranding Spillane at third thanks to a strikeout and groundout.
Mundelein's senior righty, who uses a three-quarters delivery, struck out the side in the second and again in the fourth. He left after striking out eight batters in 4 innings. O'Donoghue didn't allow a hit after the first.
"His changeup looked good, and his breaker looked good," Parola said. "When he was getting those over, he was tough to hit."
Wes Farmer's sacrifice fly pulled Mundelein even in the second, before Peterson's 2-run double down the third-base line highlighted the Mustangs' 3-run third. Reese Dolan's fielder's-choice RBI made the score 4-1.
Mundelein added 4 runs in the fifth, which Peterson led off with a screaming double into left-center. Ryan Hollander and Derek Parola had RBI singles in the inning.
Wheeling didn't get another hit until Cooney singled with one out in the seventh. But Mike Metz -- who followed O'Donoghue, Nick Hutten and the sophomore Dolan to the mound -- struck out the final two batters.
"Hats off to Mundelein," said Wieder, whose Wildcats struck out 13 times. "They're always a top-notch program. Todd runs a first-class ship here. It's a great group of kids. They played well. They got the hits, they made the plays in the field and, unfortunately, we didn't get enough hits to compete with them."
Peterson nearly had a 4-for-4 day in the cold, but his line drive in the sixth was snared in left field.
"You just got to stay focused and treat it like any other day," Peterson said. "It's nothing different, except the cold. You can't let the cold get to you."