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.