Baseball: Plainfield North throws Neuqua Valley off stride early

 
 
Updated 6/2/2018 3:11 PM
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Not much went as expected at Saturday morning's Class 4A Hinsdale South baseball sectional final.

Not the 6 runs Plainfield North recorded in the top of the first inning against a Neuqua Valley pitcher with a 0.43 ERA.

Not the complete game from Plainfield North senior spot starter Keegan Bates.

And not the way the third-seeded Tigers (26-7) won, ending top-seeded Neuqua Valley's season and Robin Renner's coaching career with a never-close 11-3 victory.

"It's really hard when you're down 6 and you feel like you have to chase and catch up," Renner said.

The top of the first inning caught everyone by surprise. It included a Gavin Doyle 2-run double and a Cameron Kissel 3-run home run.

"It totally changes what you're trying to do in the game," Tigers coach John Darlington said. "I'm thinking it's going to be a tight game, we're going to have to pitch well. Jump out to a 6-run lead, now the zone kind of kind of expands for you, you can throw the ball around a little bit more. That was nice."

Still, Bates had to face a potent Neuqua Valley offense more than capable of erasing that 6-0 lead.

"I was confident that we could come back," Wildcats senior shortstop Ryan Wheeler said. "(Six) runs, we've done that many times before. I wasn't worried, but we kind of got ourselves in a deep hole. Against a good team like that it's kind of hard to get yourself out of that."

Wheeler led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored two outs later on Jack Rigoni's double off the center-field wall. Ethan Schreier's second-inning solo home run cut the Tigers' lead to 6-2. But the Wildcats (31-4) never got any closer.

Plainfield North added a run in the third inning, then pushed four runs across in the fifth inning, three of them scoring on Sean Tillmon's double.

Rigoni led Neuqua Valley batters with 2 hits and a walk, including a sixth-inning solo home run. Wheeler added 2 singles.

And though Plainfield North kept relievers ready to replace Bates, he never left the game.

"He looked good," Darlington said. "Threw well. I was happy for him. He really worked his off-speed stuff. Threw a lot of changeups that they had trouble with, a lot of changeups. They were out in front. All those popups in the infield were all changeups."

"He attacked the zone," Wheeler added. "We just couldn't seem to square him up, so props to him. He pitched a great game."

Bates threw 98 pitches in the complete game, scattering 5 hits. Not bad for a kid who has more saves than wins on the season and hadn't started since the Tigers' first conference series of the season.

"Sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle," Darlington said.

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