Perfect through five innings, Neuqua Valley needed to be perfect for two more.
Plainfield North rallied late for a 3-2 baseball victory over the Wildcats in Thursday's Class 4A Oswego sectional semifinals, scoring the game-winning run on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh.
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The top-seeded Tigers (28-8) advance to the title game at 10 a.m. Saturday to face No. 3 Downers Grove South (27-8), a 9-2 winner over Waubonsie Valley.
"It just didn't work out like it has the last couple games for us," said Wildcats coach Robin Renner. "We certainly had a chance to win it if we make plays, but that's not the way the game works all the time."
Plainfield North starter Joe Callahan pitched a 1-hitter with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks but found himself trailing 2-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning.
Eleventh-seeded Neuqua Valley (18-17) took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when starting pitcher Matt Butler reached on a three-base error and courtesy runner Jake Alexander scored on Kevin Hutt's sacrifice fly.
Tyler Tesmond's RBI double in the sixth was the Wildcats' sole hit, and it wound up boosting the lead to 2-0 when Nick Hilgemann scored from first.
"I thought our kid pitched his butt off the entire day," said Tigers coach John Darlington. "He had a couple bad things go for him, but overall he was around the plate. He's a senior, and that's what you hope to get out of him. He did a good job for us."
A hit batter to lead off the bottom of the sixth led to Plainfield North's first run on Jack Butler's run-scoring single. A single to start the bottom of the seventh ended Matt Butler's day on the mound after he allowed only 3 hits in 6-plus innings.
Callahan's sacrifice off reliever Andy Sommers moved the tying run to second, and Jason Pacanowski quickly evened the score at 2-2 with an RBI single. An error and intentional walk loaded the bases and set the stage for the game-ending walk drawn by the Tigers' Bryan VanDuser.
"It's crazy but our team battles all seven innings and we find a way to win," Callahan said. "We never feel like we're going to lose."
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