Baseball: Pitching depth keys Stevenson's win, pushes Patriots into NSC lead

Stevenson used a relay team to take over sole possession of first place in the North Suburban Conference.

Brett Gaynor, Michael Belbot, Frank Consabile and Nick Rayyan combined to allow just three hits while striking out eight and stymie Libertyville 3-1.

The win moved Stevenson (25-7, 11-2) a game ahead of Libertyville (16-12-2, 10-3). The two teams will meet again Tuesday at Libertyville with the conference title at stake.

"This was a huge game for both teams," Stevenson coach Nick Skala said. "I told the kids to celebrate until 12:01 and then get ready to play good baseball. "

Skala, who played 17 different players in the game, showed it was a complete team win.

"It was a total team victory," Skala said. "We are an athletic bunch. And everybody is really pulling for each other."

Gaynor tossed the first four innings. He gave up the only run scored by Libertyville and all three hits while fanning four.

"It was nerve-racking coming out," Gaynor said. "We started doing a committee now. We try to get fresh arms every inning. We have lots of pitchers in our team and everyone cam compete."

Ballot followed and threw a perfect fifth inning, striking out two. But he said that arm stiffened a bit and asked to be relieved.

"We do rotate a lot in the bullpen," Balbot said. "Recently, we have been letting our starters go as long they can. I felt a little soreness in my arm, so I told my coaches. We have dudes that can do it all."

Consabile picked up the baton where Balbot left off. He retired all three batters he faced in the sixth.

"It is not easy, but it is a team effort," Consabile said. "Everyone has to pitch and everyone has to execute."

Consabile got into a little trouble in the seventh. He walked the first batter he faced and gave way to Rayyan after throwing two more pitches that were called balls.

Rayyan came in as the anchor man of the relay team and delivered the victory. He got a pair of ground balls and then a strikeout to put the Patriots on top in the NSC.

"It was great team win," Rayyan said. "There was definitely high tension at the end. All I looked to do is throw some strikes. I have great fielders behind me."

Stevenson got all the runs they needed in the second inning. The Patriots parlayed a walk, three hits and an error into two runs.

Brandon Schultz would walk and then later score on Consabile's infield single and the throwing error that followed it. Colin Schmitke would then deliver a single to score Belbot, who had singled earlier to make it 2-0.

Libertyville made it 2-1 in the third.

After the Patriots threw a runner out at the plate, Quinn Schambow had a check-swing single to right to score Kristian Gavric.

Stevenson got an insurance run in the fourth when Schultz led off the inning with a triple to right. Pinch-hitter Takuma Sakamoto singled him home to make it 3-1 and close out the scoring.

Libertyville coach Matt Thompson said his team just couldn't help his pitcher Michael Scarpelli enough when the Wildcats were at bat.

"It was unfortunate because Mike threw well for us," Thompson said. "The message after the game was they have to come hungry tomorrow. It is at our place. So, it is fun to be playing for a conference championship at home. "

It was the first of a hugely competitive week for Stevenson.

After Tuesday's game with Libertyville, the Patriots will play Prairie Ridge on Thursday and Evanston on Saturday in nonconference games before the state playoffs next week.

Both Prairie Ridge and Evanston are top seeds in their sectionals just like Stevenson.

"It will be a good test," Skala said. "There is no better way to get ready for the playoffs."

  Libertyville's Cole Lockwood is tagged out at home by Stevenson catcher Luca Morelli during Monday's baseball game in Lincolnshire. Paul Valade/
  Stevenson's Joe Dolenga, left, slides safely back into first base as Libertyville's Josh Holst takes the throw on a pickoff attempt during Monday's baseball game in Lincolnshire. Paul Valade/
  Stevenson's Joe Richardson (23) applies the tag but after Libertyville's Tyler DeFranco slides safely back into first base during Monday's baseball game in Lincolnshire. Paul Valade/
  Stevenson's Chris Iannuzzi (2) slides safely into second base under the tag of Libertyville's Jack Land during Monday's baseball game in Lincolnshire. Paul Valade/
  Stevenson's Colin Schmitke watches his RBI single against Libertyville during Monday's baseball game in Lincolnshire. Paul Valade/
  Libertyville's Kristian Gavric, left, scores the only run for the Wildcats as Stevenson catcher Luca Morelli keeps an eye on other runners during Monday's baseball game in Lincolnshire. Paul Valade/
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