DJ Cocks went with his gut, and Tommy Franczak rewarded him.
Slumping late in the season, Westmont’s cleanup hitter broke up a scoreless Class 2A sectional game on Wednesday at Benedictine University in the fifth inning with a two-run double. Westmont opened things up from there, its 7-1 win putting the Sentinels into their first sectional final since 1989.
Franczak added a two-run single in a five-run sixth, reaching base four times with three hits.
“Sometimes you just have to stick with what got you here,” said Cocks, Westmont’s coach. “We were talking about moving him down in the order, but when things have been working we decided to go with our gut. He came up huge.”
The game was scoreless for four innings – but not for a lack of opportunity on either side.
Westmont (25-7-1) had four baserunners in the first inning alone, but had a runner thrown out trying to steal home with Michigan-bound junior Charlie Donovan at the plate. Guerin (8-20) put its leadoff man on in the first and second innings. In the third a runner was tagged out trying to scramble back to third base rounding too far on a single.
Finally in the fifth Zach Moran walked with one out and Donovan singled.
Franczak then lined a pitch just fair inside the third-base line, bringing in a pair for a 2-0 lead.
Guerin coach Dan Mustari argued it was a foul ball, and continued to argue the call until he was ejected prior to the seventh inning.
“I thought it was foul, everybody over here thought it foul, but he called it fair. He’s the umpire,” Mustari said. “You have to score anyway. We didn’t get the hits when we needed to.”
Westmont, which set a program win record this season, put things away in the sixth – its first seven batters reaching base.
Donovan drew a bases- loaded walk for a 3-0 lead, Franczak followed with a two-run single and Greg Pietrzak singled in a run.
The Sentinels scored seven or more runs 18 times during the regular season.
For them it was a matter of if, not when, they’d get there.
“The mentality in the dugout was it’s going to take us a few innings to get there, but we’re going to get our seven runs,” Franczak said. “That’s our goal every game.”
“Once we got runs on the board things changed a lot,” Cocks said. “The pressure of the pitching duel went away.”
Cocks had the right man on the mound to hold the tide until the offense arrived.
Sentinels ace Moran (6-1) might only have a fastball that hits 76 miles per hour, but on Wednesday he scattered nine hits and a walk. He struck out two, matching Guerin’s Mike Marra zero for zero.
Connor Campbell scored Guerin’s only run in the seventh, singling and scoring on an error.
“He’s been there for us all year long,” Cocks said. “He’s not going to gas anybody. If your ace is throwing 76 most people won’t fear it, but he keeps people off balance and he’s done it time and time again. I’m going down with that guy.”