Baseball: Lambert quiets WW South, pitches St. Charles N. to regional title
No. 10 Wheaton Warrenville South was giving No. 2 St. Charles North all it could handle until North relief pitcher Johnny Lambert settled the scene in a 5-2 regional title win Saturday.
The Tigers, winners of two of three regular-season games against the DuKane Conference champion North Stars, threatened in the top of the first inning against starting pitcher Andrew Jimenez and scored twice in the third off reliever John Hamer to grab a 2-1 lead.
Enter the calming influence of Lambert, making his 18th appearance out of the bullpen.
The sidearming left-hander struck out nine and did not issue a walk in 61 pitches over 4⅔ scoreless innings to lead St. Charles North (25-10) to a fifth Class 4A regional title in six years.
"It feels great, especially doing it for your team," said Lambert, who twice this season had thrown 3⅓ innings. "There's not a better feeling than helping your team out like that."
Wheaton Warrenville South (20-14-1) managed 6 hits, only 1 after Lambert took the mound.
"We'd seen him but not for that many innings," Wheaton Warrenville South coach John Scherrman said. "They just kept him in because he was tearing right through us. He threw strikes and got the best of us."
St. Charles North advances to a Glenbard West sectional semifinal against No. 11 Lake Park (19-16) at Village Green in Glen Ellyn on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Lake Park eliminated the North Stars last year in a regional final, 3-2.
The North Stars defeated Wheaton Warrenville starting pitcher Ryan Keeley, a 6-foot-3 senior who threw 4⅓ scoreless innings against them on the same field on May 11. The Tigers won that game 10-0.
Keeley again lasted 4⅓ innings Saturday. This time he was touched for 4 earned runs on 6 hits and a walk. He struck out two. He said the warm weather forced him to substitute the curveball he used so effectively in the May 11 game with his changeup.
"I was a little sweaty and couldn't really get a good grip on the curveball," Keeley said. "It would just slide out. It wouldn't drop and it would stay high. I'd hang it or it would cut inside. When I moved from the curveball to the changeup, it worked pretty well but they were hitting the fastball. It was kind of a problem and that's when they got the runs."
The North Stars scored twice in the third inning to regain the lead. Patrick Bellock grounded sharply to first base to drive in Mike Gattuso. Bellock said he hit the pitch where it was thrown.
"(Keeley) was just trying to paint that outside half the whole time," Bellock said. "I was expecting it and I was trying to hit it that way."
Ryan Thiesse followed one batter later with a run-scoring double to right-center field to stake the North Stars to a 3-2 lead. The right-handed batter sent an outside fastball to the opposite field.
"I was sitting fastball," Thiesse, a .374 hitter said of his 24th RBI. "We had been keeping track of his pitches and knew he hadn't thrown a lot of breaking balls."
North added a fifth-inning run when Nick DeMarco singled up the middle to knock in Mike Gattuso.
The North Stars made it 5-2 in the sixth, courtesy of Gattuso's sacrifice fly.
Lambert did the rest, working around a seventh-inning error to earn the win.
"He was on and he was locating," St. Charles North coach Todd Genke said of Lambert. "He really got some poor swings from them."