Baseball: Flynn pitches Oswego East past Downers Grove North into sectional final
Patrick Flynn pitched in a howling wind his first playoff start, and in a steady drizzle his second on Wednesday.
That's just fine with him.
Oswego East's junk-balling senior right-hander has proved he can be plenty successful with a mix of pitches, and throwing strikes. As much as anything, rain or shine, Flynn competes.
Flynn showed it Wednesday with a sparkling performance against a Downers Grove North lineup loaded with future Division I talent.
He threw five shutout innings before leaving in the sixth with back tightness. Jackson Petsche slugged his sixth homer to stake Flynn to an early lead, and the fifth-seeded Wolves went on to knock off the top-seeded Trojans 7-2 in the Class 4A Romeoville sectional semifinal.
Oswego East (23-11), which just won its first regional title last weekend, advanced to face the Oswego-Plainfield North winner in an all-SPC West sectional final on Saturday morning.
Flynn (7-1), a change-of-pace arm out of bullpen last year, has emerged as a key member of the Wolves' rotation this spring.
Hardly a high-strikeout pitcher with overpowering velocity, Flynn is effective in his own way, and had Downers Grove North's hitters off stride throughout.
And he did so with efficiency. Flynn needed just 57 pitches to sail through five innings, allowing three hits and striking out three.
Downers Grove North (32-5), despite striking out just three times, had just one baserunner off Flynn through four innings. The Trojans were shut out for just the third time this season.
"He pretty much pitched us backward, a lot of off-speed. In fastball counts he was throwing change-ups and breaking balls," Trojans coach Kyle Briscoe said. "He did a nice job of keeping our bats at bay. We weren't able to barrel up any balls."
Flynn said he found his slider as a put-away two starts ago, and the changeup, set up by his fastball, was a big pitch against a Trojans' lineup stacked with lefties.
Flynn's defense helped, too.
Oswego East center fielder Mike Polubinski alone had six putouts, none better than his spectacular running catch in deep center on a Jimmy Janicki drive in the first.
Petsche, meanwhile, continued his late-season hot hitting with two big hits early.
He lined a fastball for a two-out single to score Cody Haynes in the first inning. Next time up, the lefty-swinging junior golfed a 3-1 pitch for a two-run homer to right, making it 3-0.
The Wolves' lead ballooned to 7-0 in the fifth, batting around in a four-run inning. Liam Mitchell's pinch-hit two-run single was the big hit. Oswego East also scored on a bases-loaded walk, one of 10 free passes issued by Downers Grove North pitchers, and Zach Polubinski came home on a wild pitch.
"It wasn't our day today," Briscoe said. "Unfortunately we picked a bad time to have that day."
The Trojans scored their lone runs on Joe Chiarelli's two-run single in the sixth, but Oswego East reliever Ryan Johnson came back to retire the next batter, and then stranded two more baserunners in the seventh inning.
Briscoe could look back fondly on a season in which Downers Grove North won a school-record 32 games, a West Suburban Silver title, and a regional championship on Janicki's walk-off home run.
"These guys have gone out and competed every day," Briscoe said.
"Baseball is a funky sport. They were the better team today."
Petsche and Josh Polubinski each had two hits and reached base three times for Oswego East, who either will next face an Oswego team it took two out of three from in conference, or Plainfield North that swept the Wolves in a season-ending series.
"It's just exciting. We're just enjoying the ride," Schaeffer said. "Regardless of who we play, we know they're both good baseball teams."