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Boys Baseball: Naperville Central Gets Revenge, Beats DGS For Regional Title

Naperville Central celebrates at home plate after winning a regional title.

Last year, Naperville Central’s season ended with a 3-1 loss to Downers Grove South in a regional final. The Redhawks finally got revenge on Saturday, knocking off the Mustangs 5-1 in the Downers Grove South regional final.

“It was great. They beat us last year. We needed to beat them this year, we couldn’t let that happen twice,” Redhawks second baseman Jeff Lucas said.

Naperville Central (25-12) was led by pitcher Jim Nashert, who turned in an all-around clutch performance. The right-handed junior surrendered no earned runs while allowing four hits and three walks in seven innings of work. Nashert also helped out on offense, driving in two runs and scoring another.

“Contributing at the plate gives me confidence on the mound,” Nashert said. “After I got my first hit, I felt more confident out on the mound and it was pretty smooth sailing from there, it was fun.”

Naperville Central took advantage of four Downers South errors to score its first three runs.

The Redhawks took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when an infield error allowed Nashert to score.

After Mustangs left fielder Zach Taylor tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI single in the fourth inning, the Redhawks scored two more unearned runs in the fifth inning to retake the lead.

Nashert’s RBI groundout drove in Lucas to put the Redhawks up 2-1. Two batters later, Naperville Central went up 3-1 when Kevin Linne – who reached base on an error – scored on another infield error.

The Redhawks scored two insurance runs in the seventh inning, going up 5-1 on a sacrifice fly by Nashert and an RBI single by Ross Murphy.

Downers South (24-13) coach Darren Orel said his team just couldn’t afford to make that many mistakes.

“They’re a great team, you give them extra outs and they’re going to take advantage of it,” Orel said.

Mustangs pitcher Brian Glowicki gave up just two earned runs and seven hits while striking out four and walking none in seven innings on the mound.

Naperville Central got a boost from the bottom of its batting order. Lucas and Linne, the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the Redhawks lineup, combined for three hits and four runs scored.

“Jeff Lucas came up huge today, he’s been batting for the last couple weeks,” Redhawks coach Mike Stock said. “And Kevin Linne, we put him in right field for defensive purposes, but he’s a battler at the plate too, and he put the bat on the ball, and made them make some plays.”

Naperville Central, the No. 5 seed in the Romeoville sectional, moves on to face No. 1 seed Plainfield North at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in a sectional semifinal.

Lucas believes the Redhawks have the talent to make a deep run in the playoffs.

“When we play like this, we’re unstoppable,” Lucas said. “When we get hits, and pitch like (Nashert) was pitching today, we can beat anybody.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com.

The Redhawks and Mustangs shake hands after Saturday’s game. It appears here.

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Boys Baseball: Metea Knocks Off WWS, Advances To First Regional Final

After Metea Valley struggled in three straight losses last week, Mustangs coach Craig Tomczak had every right to be concerned about his team’s bats going into Thursday’s regional semifinal against Wheaton Warrenville South.

But the Mustangs pushed any doubt aside, pounding out 16 hits and 12 runs in their 12-5 victory over the Tigers.

Metea Valley, the No. 10 seed in the Romeoville sectional, advances to play second-seeded Hinsdale South at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Waubonsie Valley regional final.

“We didn’t swing the bats real well last week and I was a little nervous going in to the game today,” Tomczak said. “Our approach today was great. It took us a couple innings to get going, but everyone always says that hitting is contagious, and that one inning we put a bunch of hits together.”

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by Ryan O’Neil. Wheaton South was in position to add more – they had the bases loaded with just one out – but Metea pitcher Tom Bolle induced a double play to end the inning.

The Mustangs’ bats broke out in the third inning, scoring five runs on six hits. Kenny Obendorf, Michael Mooney, Billy Sheeren, Austin Kinnavy and Ben Doiron all chipped in RBI singles during the inning as the Mustangs took a 5-1 advantage.

Metea (17-18) added two more runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Kinnavy and Obendorf.

In the seventh inning, the Mustangs had their second five-run frame. Andrew Fox started the scoring with an RBI single that brought home Kinnavy. Then with two outs and two strikes, Mooney launched a grand slam to left field that put Metea up 12-1. It was the junior first baseman’s first grand slam at any level.

“It was really exciting,” Mooney said. “I was trying to get the bat on the ball, it worked out.”

Obendorf went 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored while Kinnavy went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Of the Mustangs 16 hits, 15 were singles. Mooney’s grand slam was Metea’s first and only extra base hit.

“We have the type of team that if we get a lead, I think we’re better offensively. Then we can bunt a little bit, we can hit and run, we can steal bases from time to time,” Tomczak said. “We have a lot of base hit guys, and when you’re trailing, it’s hard to do the things we like to do offensively.”

The Tigers got RBI base hits from Kevin Giltz and O’Neil as they scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh. Metea pitcher Adam Cielinski relieved Bolle with two outs in the inning and retired the only batter he faced to clinch the Mustangs’ 12-5 victory.

The Mustangs will make their first ever appearance in a regional final game on Saturday. Tomczak said the Mustangs want to go even farther.

“These kids have worked hard for it for three years. But our job is not done, we’re not satisfied by any means,” Tomczak said. “But we know the job Saturday is going to be really, really tough. They’ve got a real good team.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Boys Volleyball: Glenbard East Shuts Down DGS To Claim Regional Title

Glenbard East poses with its regional championship plaque.

Glenbard East’s play at the net was so dominating during Wednesday’s West Aurora regional final against Downers Grove South, it was as if Joey Farrell, Matt Ploke and Tim Shenkin formed a brick wall over the net.

Farrell had 12 kills and two blocks, Ploke had eight kills and two blocks and Shenkin added three kills and four blocks as the Rams knocked off the Mustangs 25-14, 25-17.

“I thought our blocking was absolutely fantastic. It was just lights out and so was our defense,” Glenbard East coach Marci Maier said. “We were firing on multiple cylinders and we always like to see that in the postseason.”

Glenbard East, the No. 2 seed in the Wheaton Warrenville South sectional, moves on to face sixth-seeded Benet at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a sectional semifinal.

The Rams came out of the gate strong, taking a 5-1 lead in Game 1 and never looking back. Glenbard East ended the game on a 7-1 run that featured three kills from Farrell. The junior outside hitter tallied eight kills in Game 1.

“We lost to DGS in our tournament earlier this year. We really wanted to send a message and let them know that we really wanted to win regionals,” Farrell said. “They’re a great team, but we came out with a lot of energy and we came out on top today.”

Downers South (25-11) held its only leads of the match early in Game 2, going ahead 1-0 and 2-1. But the Rams took over from there, going on a 7-2 run powered by two kills and a block from Ploke to take an 8-4 lead. Glenbard East (32-6) would never lose its advantage, going on the win Game 2 25-17.

The Mustangs were unable to win more than two points in row during the match.

“They looked pretty impressive tonight. We couldn’t shut them down, we couldn’t get touches on the ball. At times, we played alright with them, but they had it tonight,” Downers South coach Kurt Steuer said. “Glenbard East is a high energy team. You can’t measure chemistry and they’ve got that on the court.”

Outside hitter Greg Garro had seven kills to lead the Mustangs. Libero David DeMarco had 11 digs and setter C.J. Blaha added 10 assists.

Farrell believes the Rams are playing with the right intensity heading into Friday’s semifinal match against Benet.

“I feel like its going to be a great match, but if we play as good as we did tonight, we’ll come out on top.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times and yourseason.com. It appears here.

Downers South lines up for the National Anthem before Wednesday’s game.

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Boys Volleyball: West Aurora’s Season Ends In Thriller Against Downers South

Downers South lines up before its regional semifinal against West Aurora

West Aurora wasn’t going to end its season without a fight.

The Blackhawks fought off three match points in the second game of their regional semifinal match against Downers Grove South, but it wasn’t enough.

On the Blackhawks fourth attempt at extending their season, middle hitter James McGrath’s block attempt landed out off bounds, giving the Mustangs a 29-27 Game 2 victory.

Downers South, the No. 7 seed in the Wheaton Warrenville South sectional, won the match 25-22, 29-27 and will face second-seeded Glenbard East Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the West Aurora regional final.

“The boys were resilient. They were going to work on every point, there was no doubt about it,” West Aurora coach Tolis Koskinaris said. “In the end, Downers South was just a little bit tougher at the net than us tonight. It was a close match, it came down to a couple blocks and they did a better job than we did.”

The 11th-seeded Blackhawks dropped a back-and-forth first game that featured 14 ties and four lead changes. After his team fell behind 22-20, Downers South coach Kurt Steuer called a timeout to regroup. The Mustangs responded by winning the next five points and the game.

The Blackhawks made four errors in the final five points of the first game, and they carried over that sluggish play into the second game. The Blackhawks fell behind 9-5, but they were able to recover and stage a comeback. After getting within one point seven different times, the Blackhawks finally tied the game at 21-21. Nine points later, West Aurora took its first and only lead of the game, 26-25, on a kill by outside hitter Eric Roggeman.

However, Downers South (25-10) sophomore Mike Schmitt stole the show from that point forward. The outside hitter had three kills during the final five points of the match as the Mustangs clinched a regional semifinal victory.

“He’s stepped in and done some nice things on the outside for us,” Steuer said. “He’s proven himself to these guys, as young as he is. He’s done some big things, and we’re happy with what we’ve seen from him.”

Roggeman and outside hitter David Vasquez each had eight kills to lead the Blackhawks. McGrath added five kills and two blocks.

West Aurora finishes its season with 23 wins and 13 losses. The Blackhawks won two tournaments and set a school record for regular season wins with 22.

“I’m proud of the guys, they had a good run. Good season. We accomplished a lot of things,” Koskinaris said. “Tonight, it was two points, they were just a little bit better than us. I believe they felt they could have won this match.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Boys Tennis: Neuqua Valley Takes First At Upstate Eight Valley Tournament

South Elgin’s Andre Norasith serves at Saturday’s UEC Valley Tournament.

Neuqua Valley left no doubt that it is the top team in the Upstate Eight Valley at Saturday’s conference tennis tournament at Waubonsie Valley.

The Wildcats won six of seven tournament title matches – including all three singles – on their way to finishing in first place with 83 team points.

“I think we’re really privileged in the respect that we do have depth,” Neuqua coach Trudy Bennorth said. “I can just pretty well count on all of them, it makes it really special.”

Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley tied for second place with 47 points. South Elgin (36), Lake Park (33), Bartlett (13) and East Aurora (3) rounded out the seven team conference.

Neuqua first singles Mike Baiocchi knocked off No. 1 seed Andre Norasith of South Elgin in quick fashion, 6-1, 6-2, in the title match.

“I felt my serve was pretty much what got everything else going,” Baiocchi said. “If I’m serving real well, everything else just falls into place.”

Norasith, just a sophomore, was the Storm’s highest finisher at the tournament.

The Wildcats also got first place finishes from second singles Tim Worley and third singles Naveen Krishnan.

Neuqua’s Jack Warning and Andi Kosova and Waubonsie’s Abhi Singh and Deep Chatterjee met for the third time this season in the first doubles final. After the duos split the earlier meetings, Warning and Kosova won Saturday’s rubber match 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 6-1.

“We definitely wanted that. The match was the deciding one – best two out of three,” Kosova said. “It was also a good boost going into sectionals and state.”

Neuqua’s third doubles team of Jeff Ohmer and Amit Iyer and fourth doubles team of Zach Bauernfein and Colton Luburgh also took home conference titles.

Waubonsie’s second doubles team of Mike Cioffi and Alex Tadeuch were the only first places finishers not from Neuqua. In just their fifth match together, the Warriors duo overcame an early deficit to knock off Metea’s Bill Finnerty and Nick Ohl 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

“The first set we couldn’t get our serve returns in play. We were kind of letting them win the match just by us missing,” Cioffi said. “In the second set we started turning it around just by getting balls in play.”

Cioffi and Tadeuch are now 5-0 as a pair and will play together at next week’s West Aurora sectional.

In addition to Finnerty and Ohl, Metea received second-place finishes from third singles Kevin Brown and third doubles Rishi Sriram and George Lin.

Of the seven title winners, six came into the tournament seeded first. The only upset occurred in first singles where Neuqua’s Baiocchi, the No. 2 seed, knocked off South Elgin’s Norasith, the No. 1 seed.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun, Aurora Beacon and Elgin Courier. It appears here.

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Boys Volleyball: Sophomore Simmons Shines As Waubonsie Knocks Off Metea

The teams gather on the court pregame for the National Anthem.

Waubonsie Valley has made a habit this season of coming back from the brink of defeat. Things were no different on Tuesday as the Warriors fought off five game points in the second game of their 25-23, 28-26 victory over host Metea Valley.

The Warriors had previously come back in matches against Marist and Glenbard West.

“We know that when we get in that position, we can come back. It’s not a done deal,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Al Lagger. “We know that’s prime time for us, we can step it up and do what we need to do.”

Waubonsie Valley (24-5, 4-0) trailed 24-20 in the second game on Tuesday before going on a 5-0 run that featured a kill and block from outside hitter Mike Storm.

The Warriors then lost back-to-back points, and faced another Mustangs game point – their fifth – at 26-25.

Waubonsie came back again to win three straight points, the last coming on an ace by middle Seth Salmon, to win the game and the match.

The back-and-forth second game featured 12 ties and seven lead changes.

Outside hitter Mike Simmons, who led the Warriors with 16 kills, said the team’s practice routine – with a threat of running – has helped build a never-say-die attitude.

“We have a lot of fight. We’ll never quit on a game, we always know we can come back and win,” said Simmons. “At practice, we always start off down and have to come back and win the game or else we have to run. That really helped today.”

Setter Luke Furman had 21 assists, two kills and two aces, Storm had eight kills and an ace and middle Tyler House had two kills and two blocks as the Warriors improved to 4-0 against Upstate Eight Valley competition.

Simmons had eight kills in the Warriors’ 25-23 opening game win. After Metea tied the game at 21-21, Simmons had two kills and a block as the Warriors went on a 4-2 run to finish off the game. The 6’6” sophomore’s perfectly-placed tap over two leaping Mustangs on game point gave the Warriors an early advantage.

Simmons’ strong play on Tuesday drew high praise from Lagger.

“He’s a consummate leader. He puts the ball in play when he has to, he swings hard when he has to,” said Lagger. “He’s a very intelligent player. If he sees a triple block, he’ll go up there and tip it in over the block.”

Outside hitter Martin Krasuski had seven kills and two blocks and opposite hitter Adam Miller had five kills and five blocks to lead the Mustangs.

Metea Valley (19-10, 2-4) coach John Aister is looking for someone to step up late in games for the Mustangs.

“I’d say half our losses this season have been just like today,” said Aister. “We’ve been up in a match, we’ve had control of a game, and we just can’t finish. We just need that one person to close for us.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here

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Boys Baseball: Colin Ash Tosses No-Hitter As Naperville North Beats Downers South

Despite morning storms and a forecast for more rain in the afternoon, Naperville North pitcher Colin Ash was determined to take the mound on Friday against Downers Grove South.

“I went to bed thinking I was going to play. We were going to play no matter what. If I had to go out there with a fine-toothed comb and do the grass myself, we were going to play,” said Ash.

Luckily for Ash, the skies cleared and the right-handed junior turned in the best pitching performance of his life. Ash tossed a no-hitter and picked up his first career varsity win as the Huskies defeated the visiting Mustangs 10-0 in five innings.

“I was just trying to let it all go and have fun. I might never experience this again, so I just wanted to live in the moment,” said Ash, who struck out three batters while allowing three walks.

Naperville North (3-4) coach Carl Hunckler said that the 5’9” Ash stood out to the coaching staff during the preseason.

“We watched him throughout the preseason and were very impressed with his speed and his mental approach to the game,” said Hunckler. “He’s got a hard breaking ball so we think he’s going to be a great player for us.”

Ash pitched most of the game with a big lead after the Huskies put nine runs on the board in the first inning. North sent 14 batters to the plate and collected eight hits in the opening frame.

Ash contributed on offense with a RBI single in the first inning. Conner Adamski, Pat Mollo and Alex Moss also had RBI singles in the inning.

Mike Laurenzo drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Nick Solak drove in two runs with a triple to deep right-center field.

Solak led the Huskies on offense, going 3-for-3 with two triples, two RBI and three runs scored. Eight of the Huskies’ nine batters recorded a hit.

“We came out swinging, that’s for sure,” said Solak, who had two hits in the first inning. “Our offense has been a little slow up to this point, but the first inning we really came out there swinging and hopefully we can take that into next game and the rest of the season.”

The Huskies snapped a three-game losing streak with the win. North had struggled offensively during the streak so the Huskies’ first inning outburst was a welcome sight for Hunckler.

“We haven’t played anywhere near our expectations this season, we’ve had a bit of feast or famine on offense” said Hunckler. “That was really nice for us to get things going offensively. I was especially pleased with how hard we hit the ball today and our approach at the plate.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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