Baseball: Stevenson's Weine delivers winning performance
AJ Weine never whined.
The junior, a first-year varsity player, started the baseball season as Stevenson's starting shortstop. He then found himself on the bench.
"I would say it was (due to) situational hitting," Weine said. "I still hit balls hard, but it was just right at kids."
Patriots coach Nick Skala penciled in Weine as his designated hitter Tuesday against visiting Mundelein -- and look who delivered a pair of clutch, situational at-bats.
Weine's two-out, 2-run double sparked a 5-run fifth inning. He added a sacrifice fly in his next at-bat, as Stevenson completed a two-game sweep of the visiting Mustangs with a 10-3 victory in North Suburban Conference action.
"I kept working at practice, daily, kept getting my work in," Weine said. "I knew I was going to get my opportunity, and I did today."
Since losing to Lake Zurich ace Noah DeLuga last week, Stevenson (13-5, 6-2) has won four in a row, matching its longest winning streak of the season.
"We've just been focused on trying to take those next steps forward," University of St. Thomas-bound Michael D'Angelo said after going 3-for-3 with a double. "We've had those hiccups where we've won a couple, but lost a big one where we shouldn't have lost. We didn't play our best game today, but our bats came out and it helped us a lot. We're just always looking to play a complete game."
Mundelein (10-8, 6-2) couldn't take advantage of 6 Stevenson errors, as the Mustangs mustered just 4 singles off three pitchers, including reliever Jacob Rosenkranz (2⅔ innings, 1 unearned run, 4 strikeouts), who earned the win.
"Tough couple of weeks at times," Mundelein coach Randy Lerner said. "We're short pitching."
Rahul Champaneri (shoulder), who's been the Mustangs' No. 2 pitcher behind Jonathan Hanscom, missed his scheduled start Tuesday. Lerner says he hopes to have the lefty back next week. Miami of Ohio commit Austin Greco (shoulder) has been limited to hitting only this season. Greco had a single and an RBI against Stevenson.
"We're still in it (conference race). We're still battling," Lerner said. "Unfortunately, we're playing from behind too many times."
Mundelein and starting pitcher TJ Yakimisky held a 2-0 lead with two out and none on in the Stevenson third. But the Patriots then got consecutive hits from leadoff hitter Chris Farina (2-for-3, double), Jake Surane (2-for-4, RBI), D'Angelo, Zach Taylor (RBI) and Ryan McElhinny (RBI) to grab a 3-2 advantage.
Stevenson had runners on second and third with none out in the fifth, looking to add to its lead. But Yakimisky got a strikeout and popup, leaving it up to Weine. The left-handed hitter pulled a ball inside the first-base bag and raced to second for a double.
"I was telling him, 'I'm done with this little hands stuff. You got to use every ounce in your body and turn on that bad boy,' " Skala said of the 5-foot-8 Weine, who flied out and reached on a dropped popup his first 2 at-bats. "He did it, and it worked out. He's been waiting to get his number called, so I'm really happy for him."
Nick Brueckert added an RBI single in the Stevenson fifth, and Farina capped the 5-run inning with a 2-run single.
"We're starting to get our stride," said Skala, whose Patriots play St. Viator at Benedictine University Friday night and host Buffalo Grove Saturday. "Big sectional week for us with a lot of sectional opponents on the schedule."
The Patriots were spirited and loud during Tuesday's game. They want to continue making noise with their bats.
"We got great senior leaders with Mike (D'Angelo) and Mac (Ryan McElhinny)," Weine said. "They keep us up. Team camaraderie is at an all-time right now. We're just rolling and feeling good."