Baseball: Maine West handles Evanston in regional semifinal
One of the more interesting stories in the past couple of baseball postseasons in the Northwest suburbs has been the run of success Maine West has had.
Entering Thursday's Class 4A regional semifinal being played at their Des Plaines campus versus 10th-seeded Evanston, the eighth-seeded Warriors had won five straight regional games en route to nabbing back-to-back IHSA squared plaques.
Something that senior second baseman Justin Scholler credits to having gained from those experiences.
"I feel like when it comes to postseason, we all know it's do or die," Scholler said. "We have a lot of energy and we always seem to get those big hits."
Scholler and his teammates not only got their fair share of big hits, but a pretty big pitching performance as well as they made their way past the Wildkits 9-1 to earn a regional final berth for the third straight year.
They'll face top-seeded Oak Park-River Forest (19-9) Saturday at 11 a.m. in what will be a rematch of last year's title game won by West.
"Today was probably our best game of the year," Warriors coach Mike Randazzo said after his squad churned out 14 hits and benefitted from perhaps one of the better performances on the mound this season -- a complete-game gem by junior fireballer Emmett Olson that included 16 strikeouts while surrendering only 2 hits.
Olson also went 3-4 at the plate with 2 RBI.
"Everybody looks awesome when all you have to do is call pitches and he executed every pitch," Randazzo said. "He had one inning when he got a little tired, but other than that he came back and was awesome."
Olson's mastery began after an opening single when he struck out the next 10 batters in consecutive order, striking out the side in the second, third and fifth innings as he was single-handedly responsible for 12 putouts over those first five innings.
Meanwhile, at the plate, Maine West (14-15-1) slowly gave Olson the cushion he needed by scoring a run in its half of the first on a bases-loaded walk, a pair in the second off a run-producing triple by Scholler that brought Enrique Melendez home and Olson's first RBI producing single that got Scholler across.
Scholler scored a second time in the Warrior fourth on a David Roscoe single.
The Wildkits (14-16) scored their lone run in their half of the sixth on a Noah Leib sacrifice fly, pulling within 4-1 before a 5-run explosion by Maine West in the bottom of the frame settled matters in which the home team connected on 4 straight hits -- 2 singles and 2 doubles.
Olson then proceeded to close the game out in the top of the seventh with strikeouts number 15 and 16.
"It's pretty crazy. I could only imagine doing anything like that," Olson said. "Towards the end, I wasn't feeling it as much as the beginning. I was just sticking with my fastball. I knew I could get it past them. You can't stop, you can't go easy. You gotta go as hard as you can."