Illinois Patriots 14U Battle the Elements to Find Winning Formula
Rainouts, snow outs, field issues and scheduling delays all contributed to a lack of game and tournament action for Illinois Patriots 14U in the season's first month.
Although the weather-related challenges continued in May, the Patriots managed to play eight games -- including a wild tournament adventure in Wisconsin -- as they battled their way to a 10-3 overall record (7-2 in the West Suburban Baseball League) by month's end.
Although storms shortened the two tournaments after pool play, IP had its first chance to step out of the WSBL with its entry into the Sandlots of Salem Bordertown Bash and the Primetime Perfect Game Memorial Day tourney.
In Salem, Wisconsin, the Patriots endured four hours of Saturday delays to win a pair of games that had first pitches at 8:58 p.m. and 11:40 p.m., respectively. In the opener, Andrew Rossini tossed a six-inning gem as the Patriots won 3-1 over the Lockport Vipers. Rossini surrendered only two hits and one unearned run while striking out eight Vipers.
Lockport held a 1-0 lead going into the fourth inning when IP evened things up with a Mikey Clingingsmith groundout that scored Ryne Campana. A heads-up defensive play by Clingingsmith in the bottom of the fifth cut down a Lockport runner at the plate during a rundown, which helped Rossini escape his only jam of the night.
The Patriots quickly struck back in the sixth as James Valentinas and Marcello Lanzi each singled to put runners on the corners. After Lanzi stole second, Dixon Wagner grounded to the Lockport first baseman, who opted to take the out at first instead of attempting to throw out Valentinas. Campana followed with a sacrifice fly to put IP up by two. Rossini sat down the Vipers in order in the bottom half to end the game.
The "nightcap" against the Grant Bulldogs had more a football game feel to it as temperatures dropped into the 40s with a steady breeze and fog adding to the mix as midnight approached for a game that was called after three innings.
Grant scored in the top of the first, but a patient Patriot lineup cashed in six walks to take a 4-1 lead after one inning. On the mound, Campana wiggled out of trouble in his two innings of work to pick up the win, while Nathan Emro fought off a Grant rally to pick up his first save of the season as IP held on for the 4-3 victory.
"After four hours of waiting, not to mention the playing conditions, we easily could have been flat and walked away 0-2 in Salem," Patriots Head Coach Mike Giovenco said. "We came out with energy, played solid defense, pitched well and made the most of our at-bats."
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Patriots split its pool play games in St. Charles before thunderstorms wiped out the championship round. In the first contest, Campana pitched seven stingy relief innings in which Slammers Illinois managed only two hits and a late unearned run. All nine Patriots in the lineup reached base and seven recorded hits en route to a 7-2 win.
IP broke open a 1-1 game by tallying runs in its final four at-bats. Wagner drove in a pair, while Clingingsmith, Rossini, Lanzi and John Kaiser each picked up an RBI.
Sunday's pool game matched IP with the Northwest Bandits, a team many Patriot players were familiar with from their Little League District 13 days. The Patriots picked up a two-out run to grab the early lead, but the Bandits answered right back against Rossini to lead 3-1 after an inning. An Isaiah Ortiz sacrifice fly scored Micah Giovenco in the top of the second to make it 3-2, a score that would hold until the seventh inning of what turned into a pitchers' duel between Rossini and a pair of Bandit hurlers.
Kaiser reached on an error and Ortiz ripped a single to left field to start a one-out Patriots seventh-inning comeback. The Bandits couldn't turn a hard grounder by Josh Wilder into a game-ending double play, and Kaiser scampered home with the tying run after a misplay at first base. Rossini retired the first two Bandits in the bottom of the seventh before Northwest rallied for the walk-off win on an infield single.
In WSBL action, the Patriots posted a 4-2 record in May with double-digit wins over Elmhurst and Lemont -- Giovenco launched his first home of the season in the latter contest. Against the Bartlett Rebels, Aaron Ryniec reached base four times and drove in two runs to help ignite the Patriots offense in a 14-4 victory.
Earlier in the month, IP split a home-and-home series with Batavia and suffered an extra-inning loss on the road when Bloomingdale found life in its last at-bat after trailing 3-0. The Bulldogs then scratched out a run in the eighth to walk off with a win that helped keep them at the top of the division.
The Patriots, affiliated with Palatine-based Dream Big Athletics, entered June in second place behind Bloomingdale with a key rematch scheduled as a part of the stretch run to the end of the WSBL's regular season on June 15.