Prairie Ridge baseball coach Glen Pecoraro felt his program was “ahead of schedule” when it advanced to the Class 4A semifinals in June.
Apparentlyhis Wolves aren’t done making noise on the diamond in 2014.
Boosted by a five-run third inning, Prairie Ridge beat Crystal Lake South 8-2on Tuesday at North Centralto advance to the semifinals of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
The Wolves (20-4) move on to face Nazareth at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Benedictine University.
“This is kind of the group that we felt we could make a run with, whether in the summer or spring of next year,” Pecoraro said. “These two classes, I think we have a chance at being pretty good.”
Crystal Lake South (19-7-3) jumped ahead 2-1 on Michael Avella’s two-run single in the top of the third, but Prairie Ridge wasted no time answering.
Christopher Slack was hit leading off the bottom half, and James Mikolajczewski drew a walk. Hunter Martin singled to left field to score Slack, and Connor Schneider added a single to bring in the go-ahead run.
Jacob Carpentier’s bunt single loaded the bases, and Benjamin Cilano made it six straight batters to reach to start the inning, doubling in two runs past the diving center fielder.
“We’re just going in there with the focused mentality to hit the ball hard,” said Cilano, who earlier doubled and scored his team’s first run. “They started dropping for us.”
Cilano, who threw seven shutout inningsMondayin Prairie Ridge’s 1-0 nine-inning loss to Joliet Catholic, enjoys showing he can hurt teams just as adeptly with the bat.
“I pride myself on being a two-way player,” Cilano said. “I like to take some of my aggressiveness out at the plate.”
Pecoraro said “you could feel the bad energy” on the team after the walk-off loss to Joliet Catholic.
But the Wolves used a four-run fifth to rally past Downers Grove South laterMonday, and again used the big inning to stay alive. Rallies seemed to be the Wolves’ modus operandi in regionals as well.
“I think sometimes we tend to do better offensively when we’re down because we relax,” Pecoraro said. “Our guys have shown great resiliency.”
Buoyed by the big inning, Prairie Ridge pitcher Alec Walters needed just eight pitches to toss a 1-2-3 fourth, capitalizing on his free-swinging opponent.
The Wolves tacked on a run in the fifth on Nick Schmidt’s RBI single, and another in the sixth while Walters kept the door shut through the sixth.
“That third inning was big,” Walters said. “It was like putting a dagger in their heart. Put those five runs up, then I put the zero up. I knew we had it after that.”
Crystal Lake South overcame a three-run deficit to defeat Downers Grove South in extra inningsMonday, but couldn’t carry that momentum over.
The Gators were shut out 9-0 by Joliet Catholic earlieron Tuesday. They were their own worst enemy against Prairie Ridge, their pitchers issuing three walks and hitting four batters.
John Constantino was 2-for-3 and reached base three times for the Gators.
“That third inning was rough, and the hit batter and walks just compounded it,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “At this point of the season you have to be able to shut them down and we just didn’t get it done.”