Libertyville senior Andrew Mack earned his nickname years ago in part for being messy, quite the contrast to the clean, crisp complete game he tossed at St. Charles East Tuesday at the Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
Mack held a St. Charles East team coming off a 15-run, 14-hit game Monday to a pair of third-inning runs and 4 hits, pitching Libertyville to a 5-2 win and a spot in the semifinals of the 38th annual summer state tournament.
Libertyville (16-4) will play St. Rita in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Benedictine University.
With each pitch Mack fired past the Saints, cries of "Juice!" went up from the Libertyville fans at North Central College.
Turns out it's a nickname he's had longer than he's been playing baseball.
"That was from when I was really young I used to drink a lot of juice and I was a really sloppy baby," Mack said. "My parents gave me that when I was really young and they called it to me at baseball games. Since I've been playing T-ball it has been my nickname."
Mack finished the game just as strong as he started. He caught Mike Candre looking to start the seventh. After hitting Austin Reglebrugge with two outs, Mack ended the game with another called third strike, this one to Jake Clodi.
"Their kid on the mound was better than we even thought," Saints coach Len Asquini said. "Our kids kind of said that. That ball really got in on them and got at them pretty quick. A sneaky quick kind of guy. We've got to give him some credit. He's tall, lanky guy and that arm and ball are just coming at you and you are not sure when it's going to be released or what it's going to do. And they played a nice ballgame, picked the ball up and threw it across the infield like you expect that Libertyville team to do."
Mack impressed himself with the strong finish. On Saturday he threw four innings for his summer team the Kenosha Indians, then came back on short rest to fire seven innings Tuesday.
"It was a lot of work, I am tired," Mack said. "My fastball and curve ball were working."
St. Charles East's only damage against Mack came in the third inning. Alex Abate walked and stole second, and with two outs and two strikes Clodi dropped a double just inside the left-field line. Ben Smith followed by also going the opposite way for a double to deep right to score Clodi and tie the game at 2-2.
The Wildcats answered immediately in the top of the fourth. Derek Feiereisel led off with a single and moved to second on Ryan Jackson's bunt.
No. 9 hitter Nick Rossetti gave the Wildcats the lead for good with a run-scoring triple to deep left field. Jimmy Govern plated Rossetti with a grounder to second for a 4-2 lead.
"Any time you can answer in that situation it kind of swings the momentum back in your direction," said Libertyville coach Jim Schurr, whose team returns four starters from its spring state team to one for the Saints, though the Wildcats are missing star catcher Evan Skoug this week.
"It's huge if for nothing else than for the pitcher, for Andrew to go back out there and pitch with a 2-run lead."
Rossetti had a big day at the plate going 3-for-3.
"We're kind of looking at Nick as a second leadoff guy," Schurr said. "He picked us huge today."
The Wildcats scored an unearned run in the seventh on Mitch Townsend's RBI single, a rally that again included a successful bunt, this time from Ben Manski.
"What I was most proud of the kids was our ability to execute today, moving runners over, getting our bunts down, getting some timely hitting and of course we had great pitching from Andrew," Schurr said.
Reglebrugge kept the Saints in the game. He scattered 11 hits over six innings, limiting the damage by allowing no walks. He didn't get to a single 2-0 or 3-1 count.
"They hit the ball but never had a huge inning," Asquini said. "I think you have to credit Austin. He made some big pitches and got some big outs and the defense was pretty good today."
The Wildcats notched their second win over the Saints in state play in less than two months having also defeated St. Charles East in the IHSA Class 4A state semifinals in Joliet.
Libertyville's semifinal opponent, St. Rita, is new to the Wildcats. St. Rita advanced by beating Minooka in an elimination game Tuesday.
"It doesn't matter who we play if we can do those (fundamental) things we're going to be in the ballgame," Schurr said. "I almost think the summer time is harder than the spring because you have to play every day here. In the spring you can go Wednesday, Saturday with your 1-2 (pitchers) and play that game. That's a testament to the depth of our pitching staff right now. We're excited about that regardless of the next couple days."
Despite the loss St. Charles East (21-13) reached the Lawler semifinals by beating Glenbrook North 5-0 Tuesday evening behind pitcher Mike Boehmer, the second time in two days they have beat the Spartans (17-18). The Saints will play Lyons Township in the first semifinal at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Boehmer, after beating Geneva last week in the regional championship game, held the Spartans to 1 hit. The game was scoreless through three innings before the Saints scored three times in the fourth and twice in the sixth to stay alive in their quest for their third summer state title after previous crowns in 1977 and 2001.