Baseball: Gowens gets Libertyville going
Having swiped home on a straight steal earlier, Libertyville's high-energy Riley Gowens had even more to be excited about in the sixth inning at Stevenson.
He led off the inning with a towering flyball to left field and, when the ball cleared the fence, he raised his arm and punched the air. The home run, after all, left him just a single shy of the cycle.
Then again, the display of enthusiasm was just Riley Gowens being Riley Gowens.
"I like to get the dugout going," the junior said. "I like to bring a lot of energy to the team."
Gowens and his teammates had more reason to smile at game's end, as Libertyville won a wild, 12-9 contest, giving the Wildcats a pair of victories in their three-game series with the Patriots this week.
While Libertyville improved to 16-5 and 10-2 in the North Suburban Conference, Stevenson fell to 11-9 and 5-7.
"It was a crazy game," Patriots shortstop Jack Housinger said. "It was a fun game to be a part of."
Gowens and Housinger likely won't forget the game anytime soon.
Gowens finished 3-for-4, including an RBI double into the left-field corner in the third, a 3-run triple into the right-field corner in the fourth and his solo homer (fifth RBI) in the sixth. He was standing in the on-deck circle in the seventh when Stevenson center fielder Henry Marchese chased down Jackson Petersen's well-hit ball into right-center for the final out.
"I was excited (about the chance to hit for the cycle), but you try not to think about those things," said Gowens, whose second-inning groundball was misplayed by the third baseman and ruled an error by Stevenson's scorekeeper. "It was a tight game. We're just trying to win a ballgame."
Housinger had a heck of a game too, finishing 2-for-4 with 6 RBI. The junior had a run-scoring groundout in the first, 3-run double in the third and 2-RBI double in the fourth. Both of his doubles went to the fence. He also flied out deep to left. His second double knocked out Libertyville starter Collin Fields.
The pitcher and hitter are no strangers to each other.
"I've known Collin for a while, grew up playing with him," Housinger said. "I think if you see a guy that many times, you're going to start to recognize his pitches and put a good swing on it."
With Libertyville trailing 1-0 in the top of the second, Gowens was on third with the bases loaded and two out and Brant Kym at the plate. Gowens read starting pitcher Jacob Rosencranz's delivery and slid headfirst into home safely. Gowens bounced to feet and hustled to the dugout, where his equally fired-up teammates greeted him.
"We got two outs and (Rosencranz) is going from the windup, and he's got a long windup," Gowens said. "Coach tells me, 'On the second pitch, if you think you can take it, take it.' "
He did and, no, Gowens wasn't worried Kym would swing the bat as he raced toward home plate.
"Veteran, captain," Gowens said of the senior. "You know he's going to get the sign. You got to have confidence in him."
Libertyville coach Matt Thompson had confidence in reliever Ben Land after Fields exited after 3-plus innings. Land, a senior righty, pitched 4 shutout innings, allowing just 1 hit and striking out three.
"He's been doing that for us lately, coming in and throwing strikes," Thompson said. "He started two Saturdays ago and threw 8 innings, a complete game against Glenbrook South. He threw like 86 pitches because he's throwing strikes. We can expect that from him."
Besides Gowens, Kym (double, 2 runs) also had 3 hits for Libertyville. Nick Angel (RBI double) and Ben Arnold (2-run double, run-scoring single) had a pair of hits each.
Marchese, who had scouts from the Padres and Orioles watching him, went 3-for-4 with 3 runs scored and 2 stolen bases. Charlie Ling was 2-for-4, and Charlie Bourbon had a double and bases-loaded walk.
A 3-run fourth, after Libertyville had scored six in the top half, pulled Stevenson within 10-9. But Land silenced the Patriots after that.
"He came in and shut us down when we were riding nice momentum offensively against a good pitcher (Fields)," Stevenson coach Pat Block said. "We hit the ball hard (early), but at the end we just didn't have enough."