Naperville North senior pitcher Kurt Krejci didn't miss a ton of bats on Friday, but when he needed a tough out he got it.
Commanding a sneaky 12-to-6 curveball that kept Downers Grove South hitters off-balance and using the sharp Huskies defense behind him, despite allowing 10 hits Krejci earned a 3-2 complete-game nonconference victory in Naperville.
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"He's just a crafty kid, he's around the strike zone," said Huskies coach Carl Hunckler. "We kid around, it's slow, slower and slowest. But he changes speeds and that's what you need to do to be successful as a pitcher."
A pitcher around the zone keeps a defense on its toes.
"If a pitcher's missing the zone you can get lackadaisical out there. But with Kurt on the mound you always know what you're going to get, he's going to throw strikes," said third baseman John Sagen, who saved two runs by charging in to field a bunt and later making a diving, backhand stop on Danny Oriente's hard bouncer, both times with the Mustangs' Zac Taylor on third base.
A 5-foot-11, 125-pound right-hander, Krejci threw 58 strikes in 90 pitches for his first decision of the season. He stranded 10 runners, and of his five strikeouts that mystical curveball caught three Mustangs watching strike three.
"It's been my best pitch for about six years now. It's what gets me going. I love throwing it," said Krejci, who curveballed his way out of bases-loaded jams in the first and fifth innings with only 1 run scored.
"I just like keeping the other team off balance," he said. "Most teams, 2-2 (count) or 3-2 you'll see a fastball. For me it could be a changeup, curveball, fastball. You never know what it is."
Downers South fastballer Pete Hamot was just as sharp, and he left with the game tied 2-2 after five innings.
"That was his first time out, a junior, so that was a real plus for us," said Mustangs coach Darren Orel, who didn't want Hamot pitching longer than five innings in his first start after throwing relief earlier this week.
Downers South (5-2) scored quickly. Leadoff batter Taylor one-hopped the left-field fence for a double and Joe Becht singled him in, but the Huskies cut down Becht trying for a double on a relay from Steve Dudas to Christian Robert to Ryan Krainz.
Still finding his stuff, Krejci hit two batters and allowed a single, then got a strikeout on one slow curve and an easy flyout on another.
"We had bases loaded a couple times, we couldn't get it done with two outs," said Taylor, who added a double and a single. "We had 9 hits on the day, I think. That's pretty good as a team. We just weren't getting it done when we needed to."
Naperville North (3-3) scored the winning run in the sixth against Nick McKinney (0-1), capitalizing when a pickoff throw to second glanced off Alex Garon's helmet. Garon moved to third and scored on Sam LaScala's sacrifice fly.
The end saw both coaches arguing calls. Leading off the seventh, Downers South's Matt Zinnecker singled. On an apparent sacrifice bunt Krejci instead was called for a balk. Then the Huskies got an odd double play when Zinnecker tagged and went to third on a flyout but was ruled out on an appeal at second.
Krejci ended the game with a caught-looking strikeout -- a fastball right down the pike for a change.
"It's a big win for us," Hunckler said. "It's a quality team. Everybody knows they're going to win 25 games, so that's big for us."