Zach Bennema was hoping to pitch well enough to keep Waubonsie Valley in its Wednesday morning game at Naperville Central.
He did far more than that.
Making his varsity debut, Bennema was nearly unhittable, going the distance and blanking the Redhawks, 4-0.
“It feels great,” he said. “I did the best I could to help our team win.”
Bennema didn’t walk a single batter while striking out eight Redhawks. He allowed five hits and on his 101st pitch struck out Dan Dolehide to end the ballgame.
“We expect a lot out of him and he lived up to that billing,” Warriors coach Dan Fezzuoglio said. “He competes so well. He was just sharp all day and stayed in it. He doesn’t get rattled.”
Naperville Central (3-1) only threatened once as Bobby McMillen and Brendan Daley hit back-to-back singles with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Bennema got Justin Wegner and Luke Daley to pop out to second base to end the inning.
“The first inning, I was a little off and it took me a little while to get on point, but as the game kept progressing, I got stronger,” Bennema said. “I felt like my slider and curveball were working well – throwing them for strikes was the big thing – and not walking anybody. And, I’ve got to give credit to our defense.”
Waubonsie Valley (3-0) scored the only run they would need in the top of the second inning, despite not getting a hit. Ben Vietri reached on a hit by pitch and Ryan Jones walked to get things started. Both runners then advanced on Nick Drago’s sacrifice bunt.
Naperville Central starting pitcher Brendan Daley got a huge strikeout, but then hit Garret Howicz to load the bases. His next pitch was a wild one and Vietri scampered home.
“We’ve just got to minimize those mistakes and put some heat on them,” Redhawks coach Mike Stock said.
The Warriors added an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning on a fielder’s choice and two more in the top of the seventh on an RBI single from Tyler Hasper and a sacrifice fly from Vietri.
“(Innings) one through five I had to really bear down and I knew that every pitch counted,” Bennema said. “It was nice in the end to have that cushion because those first five innings were definitely a battle.”
Daley only allowed two hits in his five innings of work for the Redhawks, but was victimized by his own wildness in the second inning.
McMillen and Kolzow had two hits apiece for Naperville Central.
Hasper led Waubonsie Valley with two hits.