4A Yorkville Regional: Neuqua Valley's Wheeler Walks Off Yorkville
May 26, 2018
YORKVILLE, IL - Saturday was packed with drama all across the state as teams were looking to grab their first piece of hardware in route to Joliet’s Route 66 Stadium. The top seeded Neuqua Valley Wildcats and eighth seeded Yorkville Foxes kept fans on the edge of their seats all day ending with a dramatic walk off winner by Wildcat shortstop Ryan Wheeler.
Both clubs sent their ace southpaws to the hill in Stephen Sewruk (Yorkville) and James Kulak (Neuqua Valley). The duo traded zeros for four straight innings in dominant fashion, allowing a combined three hits. Sewruk and Kulak both showed polished arsenals that stayed away from the middle of the plate and kept hitters off balance. Sewruk, a Benedictine commit, mixed an 83-86 mph fastball and 1/7 curveball early in the game, while adding his changeup later in the contest to keep Wildcat hitters guessing all day. Kulak, a Purdue commit, casually worked down in the zone with his fastball at 84-85, looking to induce weak contact early in counts, while getting to 87-89 mph with two strikes, and late in the game.
Yorkville got to Kulak in the fifth when senior Mark Sommers led off the inning with a solo home run to right. Sommers jumped all over a hanging curveball and lifted to the Foxes to a 1-0 lead and what looked like a potential upset in the making.
Sewruk came out in the bottom half and turned in another zero, a huge shutdown inning retiring the bottom of the lineup in order.
On the other side of the ball, Kulak seemed to flip a switch after allowing the homerun to Sommers. His velo ranged more consistently at 85-89 and his curveball tightened up getting some devastating swing and misses. Kulak wound up retiring four of the last nine outs via the strikeout.
Neuqua Valley evened things up in the sixth when Ryan Wheeler’s opening act of late game heroics led the inning off with a triple to centerfield. Two batters later, Evan Ranneklev hit a sharp single to center passed a drawn in infield, knotting the game at 1-1.
Yorkville went quietly in the seventh, setting the stage for Neuqua’a late game drama. Trevor Tesmond started the rally, hanging with a tough Sewruk curveball and dumping a one out single to left. Sewruk got the next batter to fly out to right, but a critical at bat out of the nine hole by Jake Wenz coaxed a walk, that turned over the lineup to Ryan Wheeler at the top.
With nowhere to put Wheeler and the winning run at second, a mound visit was in order to discuss how to attack the red hot Wheeler. Wheeler had already jumped all over first pitch fastballs in two previous at bats and was 2-for-3 at that point, with two of the harder hit balls of the day. Sewruk started him off off-speed in this at bat and Wheeler laid off. Then Sewruk got Wheeler to foul off back to pitches getting into an advantage 1-2 count, but the Neuqua shortstop stayed with a changeup away and singled up the middle to drive in the winning run and walk off with a Regional Title.