Naperville Central's baseball team wasted no time setting the tone for its game -- and its DuPage Valley Conference series -- against Wheaton North.
Two runs in the top of the first inning were all the support needed by Redhawks' senior ace Pat Maloney, who shut down the Falcons in Wednesday's 4-1 victory at Lee Pfund Stadium at Legion Field in Carol Stream.
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By taking the first game of the series, Naperville Central (18-9, 13-3) extended its lead to three games over the Falcons, Glenbard North and Wheaton Warrenville South atop the DVC standings.
Maloney improved to 6-1 by scattering 4 hits, striking out nine and walking three in a complete-game effort. Second baseman Jason Wegner sparked the lineup from the top by going 3-for-4 with a double, 2 runs scored and an RBI.
After Wegner and No. 2 hitter Bobby McMillen scored in the first inning, helped by Brendon Daley's RBI single, Maloney took care of the rest.
"I love working with a lead, so when they get runs on the board early, it's all the help in the world," Maloney said. "It's really underestimated how much it helps working with a lead."
Wheaton North (14-11, 10-6) got a run back in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Greg Sells, who went 2-for-3 with a double, but the Falcons couldn't take advantage of early opportunities. They tried to convert a first-and-third situation into a game-tying walk-off play in the second inning, but Naperville Central cut down the runner between first and second before the run could score.
"We just couldn't get anything going offensively against a very good arm," said Falcons coach Dan Schoessling "We talked about it after the game. When we get chances we've got to take advantage of them."
Wegner doubled and eventually scored on McMillen's groundout in the third inning off Falcons starter Sam Lawrence. Wegner's fifth-inning RBI single boosted the lead to 4-1. The Falcons never threatened after that as Maloney retired seven straight to end the game.
"Whenever Pat pitches, we all just know he's going to come out and pump strikes, and we're all going to feel good about our game," Wegner said. "It feels good to come out and get a win. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and get another one."
The series continues the next two days. The Redhawks hope to shift closer to a DVC title before facing Naperville North in their final series next week.
"Our guys made plays, and Patrick just battled," said Redhawks coach Mike Stock. "It was a tight game the whole time, but at the same time you felt like Pat was in control."
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