As much as Neuqua Valley loved its journey to Memphis, the Wildcats also love being back home.
Not even the chilly April air bothered them in Saturday's return to Illinois baseball.
After four losses against top Tennessee talent to start the year, Neuqua Valley picked up its first win with a 4-2 victory at Naperville Central.
With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the sixth, a two-out error opened the door for junior first baseman Alex DiFranco's 2-run single to left field that provided the margin of victory.
It wasn't the perfect game -- nothing ever is this early in the season -- but the Wildcats (1-4) showed their best days are still ahead.
"It was definitely frustrating in Memphis, we were just getting together as a team," DiFranco said. "We were really pulling together, finding each other's strengths and weaknesses. I think we really showed it here today bringing out the good win against a really good team."
Neuqua Valley opened the scoring right out of the box with 2 runs in the top of the first on Mike Riesner's RBI double and winning pitcher Matt Butler's sacrifice fly. Butler worked 6 innings on the mound, scattering 7 hits and striking out seven before being relieved by Andy Sommers, who pitched a scoreless seventh.
"Big hit by Alex DiFranco," said Wildcats coach Robin Renner. "We just needed something. I don't know if there were three or four innings we had runners in scoring position with two outs and we just could not finish. We just couldn't get it done, and Alex did."
Naperville Central (3-2) scored in the bottom of the first on Brendan Daley's run-scoring groundout, and then the Redhawks tied the game in the third when Daley singled in a run.
The Redhawks had a hit in every inning but couldn't come up with a clutch hit late in the game. Starter Pat Maloney pitched 4 innings for a no-decision. Reliever Brett Kirk took the loss.
Riesner doubled twice for Neuqua Valley while Luke Daley had a pair of hits for the Redhawks.
"I thought it was a real competitive day," said Naperville Central coach Mike Stock. "Their kid battled on the mound, I thought each of our kids did. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be, and we need to make a play."
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