Baseball: Persistent Patel saves one for Mundelein
Ryan Patel is earning a reputation for his ability to throw the baseball over the plate. So no wonder Mundelein catcher Brett Parola sprung from his squatting position and went to celebrate victory after Patel's two-strike curveball appeared to catch the edge of the plate.
The home-plate umpire called the pitch a ball, however.
Patel stayed composed. He shook off Parola's sign for another curve and fired a fastball to No.-5 hitter Jack Housinger that yielded a swinging-strike three.
Patel had thwarted Stevenson's seventh-inning rally, and host Mundelein kept its undefeated season intact by holding on for a 5-4 win in North Suburban Conference action Thursday.
"I had already thrown (Housinger) a few curveballs," said Patel, a junior right-hander who started the game at shortstop. "I just wanted to rear back, throw it as hard as a I could and throw it by him."
Stevenson scored twice in the seventh and had the tying and go-ahead runs on second and third with one out. Patel saved the game for Mustangs starter Will Michalski (4-0), who allowed 2 runs (1 earned) over 5⅔ innings, striking out 10 and walking two.
"We had Ryan Patel out there and he's reliable so, honestly, I wasn't nervous at all," Michalski said. "I trusted him. He throws a lot of strikes. That's what he's known for. I knew if he threw strikes, the pressure was on (Stevenson); not us. We still had the lead. We weren't down."
Mundelein (13-0, 5-0) spotted Stevenson (6-5, 0-3) a 1-0 lead in the first. After stealing second base, Henry Marchese swiped third and scored when the throw sailed into left field.
Mundelein got the run back in the bottom of the first on Brendan Murphy's RBI double. The Mustangs took the lead for good in the second when Andrew Beres (2-for-2) doubled home Steven Sanchez, who had drawn a one-out walk off Patriots sophomore starter Jacob Rosencranz.
Michalski had a no-hitter until Housinger singled with two out in the fourth. Michalski said his approach was to mix up his pitches. He threw a lot of curveballs to complement his fastball and changeup.
"We just don't come alive early," Stevenson coach Pat Block said. "They're a good baseball team. They played better than us today."
Marchese's RBI single got Stevenson within 3-2 in the fifth, before Mundelein answered with a pair of runs in its half of the inning thanks to a walk to Murphy, single by Parola, throwing error on Ryan Magee's sacrifice bunt and Sanchez's fielder's-choice RBI.
Then it got interesting in the Stevenson seventh. The inning started with consecutive singles by Shane McGaha, pinch hitter Brandon Ward, Michael Marchese and Henry Marchese off Patel. Charlie Ling's RBI on a fielder's choice made it a one-run game.
Mundelein's bullpen got busy when the Patriots were stringing together hits.
"Coach Borucki came out to the mound and said I was the guy, I was going to finish it," Patel said of assistant coach Ray Borucki. "So I had confidence that I was going to get some hitters out."
Patel responded by striking out Northwestern-bound Charlie Bourbon and then Housinger.
"He came back strong," Michalski said of Patel. "He didn't fold. I like that."
Henry Marchese, sophomore Hayden Brotz and the freshman McGaha all went 2-for-3 for Stevenson, which was supposed to be the home team. The Patriots' field was unplayable so they'll host Mundelein at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, when the Mustangs go for the sweep of the three-game series.
"Mundelein's a great team," said Henry Marchese, who stole 3 bases. "They're ranked No. 1 or 2 in the state, and they're undefeated, but we're battle-tested. I wish we had gotten this one. We'll come back Saturday and hopefully get a 'W.' "