4A Oswego Sectional: Neuqua Valley and Plainfield Central Advance

By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

The Oswego Sectional Semi-Final took place on Wednesday afternoon but had to be held at Lee Pfund Field, home of Wheaton College, due to the extensive amounts of rain that has hit the Chicagoland area over the last few days. In game one of the double header, Neuqua Valley faced off against Plainfield North and in the nightcap Plainfield Central took on Plainfield South.


Neuqua Valley - 3
Plainfield North - 0

The story of the first game of the day was the outstanding pitching and defense of the Neuqua Valley Wildcats (26-7). Senior RHP Anthony Sterchele cruised through five plus innings of work and junior RHP Nolan Clifford nailed down the final two innings, giving Neuqua the 3-0 win.

Sterchele, a Santa Fe JC commit, showcased a live fastball throughout that sat 88-90 mph, touching 91 a few times and 92 once. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound, right-hander consistently went to an upper-70’s slider to keep hitters guessing. Sterchele only allowed one base-runner to reach third base and whenever he got in trouble the Wildcat defense was there to pick him up. The biggest jam came in the second inning when Plainfield North had runners on first-and-third with one out. Sterchele induced a ground ball to shortstop and SS Nick Taylor and 2B Nolan Clifford turned over a crisp 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning. Sterchele ended up allowing one hit, two walks and struck out two in his five inning win.

Clifford, who started the game at second base, came on to get the final six outs of the game. Clifford, a Creighton commit, who is better known as a position player, did more than impress on the mound. The highly-athletic right-hander, pounded the strike zone at a 73% clip, sat 86-88 mph, touching 89 and routinely showed off a swing-and-miss changeup with feel for the bottom of the zone. Clifford allowed one hit, no walks and struck out two in his two inning save.

Speaking of Clifford, he got the Wildcat offense going in the third inning with an RBI single to right field that scored Matt Hill, who had led off the inning with a walk. Neuqua would tack on their final two runs of the game in the bottom of the fifth. Casey Pickering singled sharply to left field to lead off the frame, Hill walked once again and both were advanced a base on a Mike Gould sacrifice bunt. Pickering would score on a ground ball by Ethan Schreier and Clifford knocked in Pickering, for his second RBI of the game, with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Eben Heine, collected the only two hits of the game for Plainfield North (18-13-1), finishing 2-for-3. RHP Dylan Szajkovics battled despite taking the loss, going five innings, scattering three hits, one earned run, striking out one and walking four.


Plainfield Central - 6
Plainfield South - 3

Senior RHP Zach Rana, found a second gear midway through the nightcap and led Plainfield Central to a 6-3 win over Plainfield South.

With Plainfield Central (28-9) leading 6-3 in the bottom of the fourth innings, Rana, a University of Indianapolis commit, who started on the mound, came out and struck out the side, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Plainfield South (28-7) would not get a runner past second base the rest of the game and Rana struck out eight of the final 13 batters he faced, giving up two hits over that span. All-in-all Rana, who got the win, went 6.2 innings, scattering six hits, three runs, striking out 10 and walking one. Rana consistently sat 82-84 mph throughout, topping at 85 and mixed in three-pitches for strikes, especially as the game progressed. The only blemish to Rana’s outing was a Ryan Pawlak three-run home run down the right field line in the bottom of the second inning.

Those three runs in the second inning, were all Plainfield South could scratch across throughout. The Wildcats of Plainfield Central did all of their scoring early in the game as well; scoring two runs in the top of the second and four in the third. After a Daniel Guiliano sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third with one out in the second, Ryan Daly grounded out, scoring a run and Josh Cunniff followed up with an RBI double.

The four-run third inning all started with two outs. Consecutive walks, an RBI single by Charlie Bischoff and an infield error led to the big blow of the inning, a two-run double down the left-field line by Daly.

Bischoff and Justin Divelbiss led the offense with two hits apiece. Bischoff finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. RHP Sam Pileggi came on in relief of Rana and struck out the only batter he faced to preserve the win and pick up the one-out save.

Justin McGuigan, Tylor Phommachanhom and Ryan Pawlak were the bright spots offensively for Plainfield South. McGuigan finished 2-for-4 with a double, Phommachanhom went 2-for-2, with a triple, run scored and a walk. Pawlak delivered the big three-run home run in the second.

Plainfield Central and Neuqua Valley will face off on Saturday, location TBA, with the Sectional Championship at stake.

For more in-depth notes from this game - and all other games that we cover - visit the Illinois Scout Blog.