Baseball: McHenry's bats come alive early, often
McHenry spent a great deal of Wednesday's workout, "a rough practice" according to Warriors coach Brian Rockweiler, concentrating on its hitting approach.
It didn't take long for the Warriors to reap the benefits of those efforts. They scored two runs in the first inning, added three more in the second and continued to tack on after that.
It was ample support for McHenry starting pitcher Lazlow Ziebel, who threw his best game of the season to beat Crystal Lake South, 9-1, Thursday in their Fox Valley Conference game at Petersen Park.
"We were more focused in terms of competing," said McHenry left fielder and leadoff man Eddie Synek, who had three hits and two walks. "Practice yesterday was a time when we could focus and compete, keeping it simple, putting the ball in play. We weren't there mentally.
"Today, we were more involved. We had more energy and that's always good. Competing with energy, you'll win a lot of baseball games like that."
McHenry (6-5, 2-1 FVC) scored on a double steal and on Ricky Powell's sacrifice fly in the first. Cooper Cohn had a fielders choice RBI and Gavin Micklinghoff ripped a two-run single in the second.
Ziebel (2-1) worked his way out of a jam in the first when South had runners at second and third with one out. Ziebel got a pop-up and a groundout and allowed only one runner past second base after that.
"That was definitely my best outing," said Ziebel, who went 5 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking two. "The wind was blowing straight out, so it was a little bit of a challenge for the fastball. We picked up a lot of off-speed. (Assistant) coach (Zach) Badgley started calling more off-speed and it worked out in my favor."
Ziebel said they went with a lot of sliders and two-seam fastballs, which were moving more with the wind.
" (Ziebel) competed today. He did real well," Rockweiler said. "He threw strikes, he did an excellent job. He figured out (what worked with the wind) right away. He's a super-smart kid."
Rockweiler tried to get Ziebel through the sixth inning, but pulled him after the Gators (6-4, 1-2) got hits from Chris Kahle and Zach Sabres in the sixth. Logan Wirtz came in for the final four outs.
"We hoped we could squeeze one more inning out of (Ziebel)," Rockweiler said. "He was getting a little tired. He didn't want to come out."
Gators coach Brian Bogda felt like the game turned in McHenry's favor early on.
"I thought the game was won and lost in the first inning," Bogda said. "We had our chances there to score with our (Nos.) 4 and 5 hitters up and we just didn't get it done. We didn't help ourselves out on the defensive side of the ball.
"McHenry did a nice job hitting and their pitcher did a nice job giving them a quality start. He did a really good job."
Zach Sabres and Jason Dabrowski each had two hits to lead the Gators.
South threatened in the first inning when Dayton Murphy singled and, on a hit-and-run, went to third on Dabrowski's infield hit. Ziebel retired the next two batters to escape trouble.
Sabres singled to lead off the third, Ryan Skwarek singled, and with one out, Dabrowski singled to drive in Sabres.