After his right fielder unleashed what might have been the best strike of the day, Libertyville pitcher Jeff Barton didn't have to worry about retiring hitters on strikes.
With Jimmy Govern putting on another defensive show at shortstop, and Conor Simpson keeping Stevenson off the scoreboard in the first inning with a perfect throw home from right field, Barton tossed 6 shutout innings of 3-hit ball, as Libertyville blanked the visiting Patriots 9-0 in a North Suburban Lake Division opener Tuesday.
Barton didn't strike out a batter until his last inning, when the senior righty fanned back-to-back hitters after Stevenson (2-3) threatened with two on and one out.
"I get probably 7-8 (strikeouts) a game (usually)," said Barton, who improved to 2-0 in his third start of the season. "I was just pitching to contact after we were up 5, 7-0."
Govern had 5 assists and 2 putouts and didn't make an error.
He also figured on both double plays turned by Libertyville (5-2).
"With our defense," Wildcats coach Jim Schurr said, "why not pitch to contact?"
Stevenson had runners on first and second with one out in the first, when Willie Bourbon singled into right field.
Simpson charged the ball and gunned a strike to catcher Evan Skoug, who was waiting for Patriots courtesy runner Justin Happ to arrive at home plate.
"I think that set the tone for us in the game," Barton said of Simpson's defensive gem.
"That was a big play," Schurr said. "If they go up 1-0 there, it's a different mentality."
Facing Stevenson ace Mitchell Goll, Libertyville scored a run in its half of the first on Mitchell Townsend's two-out, ground-rule double to right-center, scoring Govern (3-for-4, 2 doubles, 3 runs).
Townsend doubled again in fourth (to deep center) and sixth (to deep left-center). The big left-handed hitter finished 3-for-4 with 3 RBI. That, after Schurr tweaked the junior's batting stance a couple of days ago.
"I was drifting a little," Townsend said. "When I would come to my load (leg), I'd be a little crossed over. So he moved me a little open, and it's helped a lot."
Matt Reed delivered another two-out hit for Libertyville in the third, pulling a single into right to score a pair of runs.
"(Goll) was pounding the zone," said Stevenson catcher/leadoff hitter Joey Morris, who singled and walked twice in his three plate appearances. "It was just a couple times they hit him hard. A play here, a play there, and we could have been back in it."
The Wildcats tacked on again in the fourth, as Simpson (2-for-4, double, 3 RBI) ripped a two-run single, again with two out. Two batters later, after an error kept the innings alive, Townsend doubled to score two more runs.
"I like how we're swinging it," Schurr said after his team pounded out 11 hits, including a bunt single by Hunter VanWagner.
The left-hander Goll, who was coming off an Opening Day start and win against Loyola, threw 4 innings, allowing 8 hits and 7 runs (5 earned).
"I thought with Mitch pitching that we'd have a chance, but (Libertyville) capitalized on mistakes, and we're not good enough to overcome those," Patriots coach Paul Mazzuca said. "We just can't compete right now. We're not a very good baseball team right now."
It doesn't get any easier for Stevenson, which hosts Libertyville today, plays Fremd Thursday and takes on Naperville Central Saturday. It's no time for the Patriots to panic, however, despite having already been shut out twice.
"It's been only five games," Morris said. "It's a long season. We got 30-plus more games. Right now doesn't mean much. The playoffs mean the most."
"We have two options," Mazzuca said. "We can keep working, or quit. These guys don't quit."