Baseball: Ben Llewellyn, Downers Grove North, drop Neuqua Valley; Waubonsie Valley advances

Ben Llewellyn felt great and so did his fastball.

The Downers Grove North senior held Neuqua Valley to just three hits and senior Jude Warwick blasted a homer run to lead the Trojans to a 3-1 victory over Neuqua Valley during Wednesday’s Class 4A Plainfield North Sectional semifinal.

“The fastball felt great,” Llewellyn said. “(Catcher) Jimmy (Janicki) calls a great game, which helps a lot. I just throw what I need to throw. My slider was good some of the time and my defense was there to pick me up.”

Downers Grove North (29-7) advances to the sectional championship game on Saturday at 10 a.m. against Waubonsie Valley (24-9)

Neuqua Valley (16-20) pieced together a run-scoring rally without getting the ball out of the infield in the top of the third.

The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out. Jorden Castillo walked, Brendan Morris laid down a bunt single just out of the reach of Llewellyn’s glove and Owen Shannon followed with a bunt hit down the third base line.

Llwellyn’s pickoff throw towards second base ended up in center field bringing home a run, but the Trojans threw out Morris at third. Llewellyn then got shortstop Andrew Gould to fly out to end in the inning.

“We’ve fought back all year,” Llwellyn said. “It’s something we can do.”

They’d do it in the fourth inning with Janicki getting a rally going with a leadoff double.

After Brady Schallmoser flew out and Janicki moved to third on a wild pitch, Jack Romsey tied the game with a sharp single up the middle.

Romsey then moved to second base when Carlos Sanchez reached on an error. He then came home on junior JD Cumbee’s hit to center.

“He was throwing a lot of curveballs,” Cumbee said .”He didn’t have a feel for his fastball so I knew he was going to throw me a couple curveballs. It was down the middle hanging and I just drove it up the middle.”

The Trojans are now just a win away from 30 which would also be a win away from playing in a supersectional for a trip to state.

“The past few practices have been pretty decent with a lot of situational hitting, working on bunt defense, stuff like that,” Cumbee said. “Those are things that win ball games and hopefully carry us further in the playoffs. We have a special group of guys, close-knit guys, great seniors. We having a lot of fun out there and hopefully we can take it far.”

Warwick certainly looked like he was having fun leading off the bottom of the fifth. He launched a solo homer to right field to make it 3-1.

“He’s been throwing solid fastballs and he threw me one inside first pitch,” he said. “I was looking for it and I got the barrel to the baseball and I let the ball do the job.”

The Trojans missed out on adding runs later in the inning, loading the bases before Morris turned a nifty double play to end the threat.

“We definitely needed that insurance,” Warwick said. “It was a close game all the time so I knew one run could really switch the board for us.”

Sebastian Guzman, who kept the Trojans scoreless for the first three innings, took the loss.

Waubonsie Valley 3, Plainfield North 0:

Owen Roberts didn’t pitch for Waubonsie Valley a season ago.

On Wednesday, the junior right-hander threw a no-hitter and improved to 10-0 on the year.

Roberts worked around three hit batters and a pair of walks to lead the Warriors to a 3-0 victory over Plainfield North in a Class 4A Plainfield North sectional semifinal.

Waubonsie Valley (24-9) will play for a sectional title on Saturday morning against Downers Grove North (29-7).

“Words can’t explain it,” he said. “I’m proud of myself. It feels amazing just going out there and trying to compete and win every game.”

As a sophomore last spring, Roberts was the everyday shortstop for the Warriors. While he fired countless balls to first base, he wasn’t asked to pitch. This year he took on the added role as the closer, but coach Bryan Acevedo soon realized he needed him to finish them, too.

“We lost a series to Naperville Central to start the year and he threw two pitches to get a save in game one so we needed to give him the ball,” Acevedo said. “He’s done nothing but give

It back to us at the end of the game.”

Plainfield North (17-18) almost got to Roberts in the first inning.

Johnny Andretich walked, Max Barriball got hit by a pitch and Colin Doyle walked to load the bases, but the Tigers left the bases loaded after a pop out to end the inning.

“We had two chances and we didn’t take advantage of them,” Tigers coach John Darlington said. “(Roberts) pitched really well. His velocity kind of screwed us up and he ran a two-seam in on us. Hat’s off to them.”

Leadoff walks are dangerous and Ryan Gustaitis drew one to get the Warriors started in the first. Roberts then followed with a bloop double down the right field line before Ben Ford singled to right which brought home Gustaitis and courtesy runner Noah Pilon as the throw home went all the way to the backstop.

“It felt good,” Ford said. “I got to two strikes so I was ready for the fastball and to adjust to off-speed just like I did. I saw the ball well and hit it hard to the right side and plated one run and the throw got by and another run got in. It was awesome to get an early lead to start it.”

The Warriors increased their lead in the bottom of the third and once again Roberts sparked the offense, too, with a single. Pilon swiped second and moved to third on a wild pitch before trotting home on Sean Carroll’s single to right field.

“He’s been awesome all year,” Ford said about Roberts. “He’s been our go-to guy. He’s been unbelievable. He gives us a chance to win every time. Today was something special. It was awesome to see.”

Roberts struck out six. He also reached base in his three plate appearances.

“I’m not the best pitcher in the first inning,” he said. “But I feel like I get better as the game goes on.”

Finally in the sixth inning the Tigers had their first baserunners since the first. Joe Guiliano and Barribal absorbed pitches to reach and then moved into scoring position on a passed ball. But Roberts proceeded to get a strike out and then induce a slow inning-ending roller to Seth Nielson at first base to end the threat.

“It was a nerve-racking moment,” Roberts said. “If I walked a guy the bases would’ve been loaded and I just didn’t want to lose. I knew I had to throw a strike.”

He’s the kind of kid who’ll do anything to win.

“I’m like a Swiss Army knife,” he explained. “My teammates gave me the Tomahawk Award for the most versatile player. If I need to play outfield, I’ll play the outfield.’

Ryan Mickenbecker, who tossed a shutout to beat Naperville North in last week’s regional semifinal, pitched well again in defeat.

“Ryan did a good job pitching that kept us in the game,” Darlington said. “Offensive has been trouble all year for us. As you move forward you’ve got to have some offense. You can’t get no-hit and expect to win the game. Their kid did a good job and their kids put the ball in play when they needed to and we didn’t take advantage of our chances.”

It was a tough ending for the Tigers, but afforded them one final opportunity to play on their home field.

“Our seniors have been great,” Darlington said. “They worked their butts off for four years and are great leaders. Hopefully they set the stage and we talk about it being the next group that follows along.”

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