Baseball: Desai saves the day in Naperville North’s series-winning victory over Naperville Central

It didn’t take long for a big shift to take place in Thursday’s crosstown baseball game, a change that ended up leaving the game’s outcome up in the air until the final ball was put in play.

In the DuPage Valley Conference rubber match at Naperville Central, the visiting Huskies led 6-0 after 4 1/2 innings and left-hander Max Steele was tossing a gem. But the Redhawks’ patience at the plate and a high pitch count knocked Steele out of the contest after three walks and an infield error had the bases full and Central on the board with its first run in the bottom of the fifth.

After reliever Yash Desai entered, an RBI double off the bat of Jacob Gervase was followed by an error and all of a sudden it was a 6-5 ballgame. But Desai settled down and closed out the win, helped in large part by a diving catch from his right fielder Scott Walker for the final out of this thrilling contest.

“I felt good. I pitched on Monday. It didn’t go as planned but I kept trusting my stuff and trusting my defense and then Scotty makes a great play at the end of the game,” said Desai, a junior who pitched the final three innings to preserve the win for Steele. “The series win gives us a lot of momentum going into next week. We’ve kind of turned the switch and we need to carry it on.”

The Huskies, now 7-10 overall and 4-5 in conference, claimed their first DVC series win this spring. They took advantage of a dropped pop fly to score four times in the second, with three of the runs unearned. Jackson Prentice, who had just missed a home run when his deep shot to left field hooked foul, stepped back into the box and belted a 2-run double for the biggest hit in the big inning.

“Usually when people hit a foul ball like that they kind of get down. I just like to keep it cool and go back at it,” said Prentice, who had two doubles in the game. “Last year I was more of a defensive hitter even when I was ahead in the count. But over the summer I started to come out and attack the ball more.”

The Huskies added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to build a 6-0 lead. John McCabe led off the fourth with a walk and eventually scored on a wild pitch, then his RBI single in the fifth scored Charlie LaScala with what proved to be the winning run.

“Our kids kept their heads, had some big plays late, and that catch by Scottie [was] fantastic,” North coach Jimmy Chiappetta said. “Yash, he’s just a junior, he’s been up pitching for us since sophomore year.”

“That 4-run second inning all started with 2 outs,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stock said. “We needed to minimize that. We needed to hold them to 1 or 2 runs which we can live with. We came back, but we needed to minimize that there.

“Steele pitched really well. He pitched as well as anyone has against us this year in conference. But our kids had some quality at-bats and got his pitch count up so that gave us a chance.”

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