Baseball: Lechowicz saves day for Crystal Lake Central in win over CL South
Crystal Lake Central pitcher Mason Lechowicz was eager get back on the mound after a couple rough outings.
The Tigers were anxious to find someone to throw strikes and stop the bleeding after a bizarre inning in which Crystal Lake South scored five runs without a hit.
They both got what they needed.
Lechowicz threw two strong relief innings to nail down a 6-5 win over the Gators in their Fox Valley Conference baseball game Thursday.
"I was so excited. I was so ready," Lechowicz said. "A big 'Thank you' to all my coaches who have stuck with me through thick and thin. I had one of my best friends, Ryan Kempf, behind the plate helping me so much.
"It was amazing. Finally, I've been waiting for this for a long time. It felt really good."
Central (8-7, 3-5 FVC) was in control, ahead 6-0 heading into the fifth, with Jack Dunlea on the mound, but Dunlea walked the first two batters. Reliever Drew Welder got a strikeout, but hit a batter and walked two.
Jack Prather came in to reliever Welder and walked two more before Mason Struck lifted a sacrifice fly to right field. When James Carlson was retired on a pop-up to end the inning, the Gators (8-7, 5-5) had sent 10 batters to the plate, had two official at-bats and had cut Central's lead to 6-5.
Tigers coach Andy Deain could not have been happier for Lechowicz.
"If one guy's not getting the job done, we expect the next guy to get the job done," Deain said. "(Lechowicz) threw everything with conviction. He wasn't worried about location, more about executing pitches. Whatever sign we give you, just execute that pitch. I think he had that mindset.
"Unbelievable. It was awesome because he had two rough outings in a row. To come out and persevere the way he did showed a lot of character about him. I'm really, really proud of him. That was huge for us."
Earlier, it was designated hitter Tommy Korn who delivered big for the Tigers with two hits off South's hard-throwing Ysen Useni. Korn ripped an RBI single in the second on a full count, then hit the first pitch in the third for a two-RBI double to left-center field.
"We were being very selective," Korn said. "The early-on batters he faced he was throwing early fastballs. I was expecting early fastball and didn't get it (in the first at-bat). But I battled through it until I got a fastball that I saw middle in and I let loose on that one. Second at-bat I had the same approach, look for first-pitch fastball."
Central scored two in the second, added three in the third and got an unearned run to make it 6-0 in the top of the fifth, before things took a strange turn.
"It went from where we thought we'd have a comfortable game to our third one-run ballgame in the last three games," said Deain, whose team has won by one run in its last three games. "It showed perseverance and that they can handle adversity, which is good to see."
South's Ryan Skwarek was 2 for 2 with an RBI and drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth. Gators coach Brian Bogda lamented some lapses in the field early in the game.
Useni left after 2 2/3 innings, but two errors and a balk led to Central's two second-inning runs.
"The positive take-away was that we battled back and made it a close game, because for a while there it looked like it wasn't going to be a close game," Bogda said. "I'm just disappointed in the mental mistakes we had early on. We gave them some easy runs from balks and not making a couple plays in the field.
"I felt like, all facets of the game, we didn't execute. I applaud our guys for being patient, battling back and having an opportunity to win it."