Say what you want about an up-and-down season by Naperville North's baseball team, but you can't argue with the Huskies' timing.
They've picked the perfect time to trend upward.
Naperville North won for the seventh time in eight games with Monday's crisp 3-0 victory over visiting West Aurora in the Class 4A Metea Valley regional quarterfinals.
The hot Huskies (17-15), seeded 13th, face fourth-seeded rival Naperville Central (21-12) in Wednesday's semifinals. Even though the Redhawks enter as the favorite to win the entire regional, Naperville North took two of three from the Redhawks in last week's DuPage Valley Conference series.
The Huskies feel pretty good about their chances.
"We caught heat the last few games and we played real well," said Huskies starting pitcher Rob Leonard. "So that was good. And to get back out here after last year's loss really was awesome."
Leonard was stellar in a complete-game effort, allowing 3 hits while striking out eight and walking two. Twentieth-seeded West Aurora (8-22) managed 2 of its 3 hits in the first inning -- both infield hits -- before trying to stage a rally in the top of the seventh.
Quintez Jones, who led off with a single, and Connor Meehan reached base to bring the tying run to the plate with one out, but Leonard struck out the next two batters to end the game.
"Obviously, you've got to score runs in order to win," said West Aurora coach John Reeves. "We knew it was going to be a close game, we just had to find a way to score. This is probably very similar to our entire season. We pitched pretty well all season long, we just didn't score a lot of runs."
Naperville North broke out to a 2-0 second-inning lead on back-to-back two-out RBI doubles by John Sagen and Steve Dudas. Mark Khoury, who went 2-for-3, singled to lead off the sixth and courtesy runner Sam Lascala eventually scored on an error to boost the lead to 3-0.
West Aurora starter Jared Liebelt scattered 7 hits while walking one, striking out four and allowing 2 earned runs in 6 innings.
"Well-played game by both teams," said Huskies coach Carl Hunckler. "We're on a nice little roll right now and we just want to continue it. We feel pretty good where we're at."
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