Streaking West Aurora ousts Marmion
Saying that West Aurora's baseball team has been streaky this season would be an understatement of sorts.
After opening the year with 6 consecutive victories, the Blackhawks suffered through a stretch where they lost 16 of 17 games during the middle portion of their season.
Now they appear to be peaking at the right time.
Junior pitcher D.J. Varney tossed a 4-hit complete game to lift the 19th-seeded Blackhawks (14-16) to their seventh straight win -- a 3-1 triumph over 15th-seeded Marmion during Monday's Class 4A regional quarterfinals in Aurora.
Varney, who earlier in the day received all-DuPage Valley Conference team recognition, struck out 8, walked 3 and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth after the Cadets had scored their only run.
Josh Meyers led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Brian Simon's RBI groundout as the Cadets drew within 3-1.
After issuing walks to Alex Troop and Brady Roberts, and loading the bases with 2 out, Varney ended the threat by inducing Shane Carmody to hit a comebacker to the mound.
"There were a lot of things going through my mind but I had confidence in our players," said Varney, who retired the side in order in the seventh. "We had no errors today."
The fact that Varney battled his way out of the sixth-inning jam didn't come as a surprise to Blackhawks coach John Reeves.
"He likes to finish what he starts," said Reeves. "Earlier in the year, he threw a 9-inning complete game in a win against Wheaton North. He's got that mental toughness.
"D.J. doesn't know this yet but he was an all-conference performer for us," added Reeves. "He went 3-3 but had a 1.55 ERA in the DVC this year. We knew coming in that he was going to give us a nice shot to win a ball game."
West Aurora scored all 3 of its runs without ever getting the ball out of the infield.
In the second, Josh Livingston reached on an infield throwing error, took second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a wild pitch and came across with the game's first run on another wild pitch.
In the fourth, the Blackhawks padded their lead with a pair of runs. Blake Salesky walked to lead off the frame before Livingston reached on a bunt single.
After the runners raced to second and third on a passed ball, Troop (5-2) fanned the next 2 batters before a 2-out wild pitch allowed pinch-runner Andrew Sibon to score the Blackhawks' second run of the game.
One pitch later, Jared Liebelt's infield single knocked in Livingston to make it 3-0.
"We gave them a lot of free bases with passed balls and wild pitches," said Cadets coach Dave Rakow. "You never know what play is going to be the difference in the game. It turned out today all of the big plays happened in the first few innings."
Troop fanned 9 over 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Conner Riley, who retired all 5 batters he faced.
"He kept us in the game and pitched well enough to win," Rakow said of Troop. "We couldn't string any hits together in any inning."
Bumped up to Class 4A after capturing 3 straight 3A regional titles, the Cadets finished their season with a record of 13-12.
"Seventeen of our 21 players are either juniors or sophomores so we have a lot to build on."
"It (the regional loss) hurts now but after we have a day or two to reflect on it, I think we had a pretty good season," Rakow said.
West Aurora, meanwhile, advances to Wednesday's regional semifinals against second-seeded Naperville Central.
"We have a lot of familiarity with them," Reeves said of the Redhawks. "They've got some good pitching and they run the bases very well."