Mike Kornacker, St. Laurence ease past Lincoln-Way North

There likely will be a new No. 1 when the polls come out next week.

St. Laurence made certain of that.

The No. 2 Vikings battered former teammate Kevin Smith and No. 1 Lincoln-Way North 14-0 in six innings Thursday in the Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Tournament at Benedectine University in Lisle.

Offense, defense, pitching, St. Laurence (23-7) performed each task at a state championship level. The Vikings belted out 12 hits, played flawless defense and received a dominant performance on the mound from Mike Kornacker.

“Yes, I think this was our best performance of the year,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus. “We played great defense behind Mike and we hit one through nine in the lineup. Everyone contributed.”

Kornacker, who improved to 6-1 with the complete-game win, needed just 74 pitches to tame a dangerous Phoenix line-up. The junior right-hander allowed four hits and struck out six, including Smith twice, who was serenaded with chants of “trader” by a large Viking contingent. Kornacker benefitted from a pair of marvelous plays by second  baseman Nate Tholl and left fielder Mike Miller in the third and fourth innings, respectively.

“I felt really good out there,” said Kornacker, a Purdue recruit. “We came out ready to play. This was a big game for us. Yeah, it was even bigger because of Kevin. I thought we handled it really well and played one of our most complete games of the year.”

Beyond playing the No. 1 Phoenix (29-2), the presence of Smith, who spent his first three seasons at St. Laurence before transferring to North, elevated the stakes. Smith entered the game 7-0, but the Vikings weren’t daunted and wasted little time handing the Creighton recruit his first loss of the season.

The first two batters of the game, Brad Wood (4-for-5, 2 RBI) and Nate Tholl, greeted Smith with singles. Kornacker then followed with a ball that center fielder Corey Krupske ran down but dropped, allowing Wood to score for a 1-0 lead. Zach Lewis and Miller each lofted sacrifice flies for a 3-0 lead.

“Getting that early lead was huge,” Kornacker admitted. “We knew if we could get on the early, we could put more pressure on them.”

The Vikings tacked on two more runs in the third, compliments of a two-out single by T.J. Marik that scored Tholl (walk) and Lewis

(single) for a 5-0 advantage.

St. Laurence added a solo run in the fourth when Wood singled up the middle, scoring Kevin White, who had doubled, making it 6-0.

“They were playing at a different speed than we were and I don’t know why,” Lincoln-Way North coach Joe Skarbek said. “We didn’t make plays we usually make.”

The Vikings sent Smith to the showers in the sixth and proceeded to score eight runs in the inning. Skarbek summoned left-hander Brett King from the bullpen after Smith hit Ryan Rybakowski with a pitch leading off the inning. That move further opened up the floodgates, as the Vikings sent 12 batters to the plate. Lewis, Tholl, Wood, Rybakowski, Pat Haugh and Roger Wilson recorded RBI to extend the lead to 14-0.

To his credit, Smith handled the loss like a man.

“Days like this are going to happen; it’s baseball,” Smith said. “Winning this game isn’t our main goal; winning a state championship is. They’re a great ballclulb. Today wasn’t our day. We’ll be back.”

The Latest
Nazar, whose sophomore season at Michigan just ended Thursday, will join the Hawks immediately for the final three games of their season.
Michael Jones was outside about 11:30 a.m. March 27 in the 800 block of West 52nd Street when two people approached him and fired shots, authorities said.
While the No. 9 team in the Eastern Conference hosting the No. 10 team feels pretty meaningless in the scope of the playoffs, the Bulls and Hawks are both on the cusp of doing what they can to move big-money contracts this summer.
Around 6:30 a.m., the 29-year-old was in the 2600 block of North Sawyer Avenue when he was shot multiple times in the body, Chicago police said.
During his rehab, Mueller became a father for the first time.