Prep Baseball Report

Garner Leads No. 10 Plainfield North To Walk-Off Victory Over Naperville Central

By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

ROMEOVILLE, IL – Naperville Central sophomore lefty Ryan Eiermann has had a whirlwind last few weeks; he was named the Co-Dupage Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year after going 8-0 this year with a 0.23 ERA (three earned runs allowed all year), and 110 strikeouts in 68 innings. The talented southpaw also committed to Division-I national powerhouse Texas Christian last week.

Plainfield North senior lefthander Kyle Strepek just wins baseball games, going 19-1 over the past two seasons on the mound. The Tigers ace is headed to Illinois-Springfield next year and is one of the toughest competitors in the Chicagoland area.

Runs would be hard to come by, and the two aces on the mound did not disappoint, as Plainfield North (29-7) rallied with two runs in the bottom of the eight for a walk off 4-3 victory over Eiermann and Naperville Central on Thursday in the Romeoville Sectional Semifinals.

Strepek and Eiermann went toe-to-toe for seven innings until the Redhawks (19-17) chased Strepek in the top of the eighth with the score knotted at 2-2. After allowing a leadoff single to Naperville Central senior catcher Justin Wegner, Strepek was replaced by senior closer Adam Zuk.

Senior left fielder Bobby McMillen singled to short, advancing courtesy runner Austin Sherman to second base. After a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners, Zuk walked the bases loaded. A wild pitch scored Sherman, giving the Redhawks their first lead since the third at 3-2. Zuk limited the damage with a swinging strikeout on an 85 mph fastball, setting the stage for the comeback.

Eiermann kept getting better as the game progressed. After giving up runs in the second and third, the Redhawk’s ace threw up four straight scoreless frames, retiring nine consecutive at one point, and 12 of 13 during the stretch.

After a strikeout to lead off the bottom of the eighth, Plainfield North senior second baseman Bryan Van Duser reached on a hit by pitch after fouling off four pitches with two strikes in a battle at the plate with Eiermann.

Junior designated hitter Jake Dunham subsequently launched a ground-rule double to left field, just past the outstretched glove of McMillen to put runners on second and third. Van Duser likely would have scored if not for the ball bouncing over the fence, but Dunham wasn’t worried with junior right fielder Josh Garner stepping to the plate.

“I was confident in Josh and knew he’d pick us up”, said the NIU-commit Dunham. Garner did just that, hitting a fly ball double down the left field line, scoring two runs and giving the Tigers a walk-off, come-from-behind victory over the Redhawks.

“He’s really tough, a great pitcher”, said Garner of Eiermann. “I was looking for a good pitch to hit and just trying to get my foot down early. We were a little down there after the top of the eighth, but stayed positive and knew we’d come back”.

The middle innings were every bit the anticipated pitcher’s duel, as neither team scored from the fourth through the seventh. Strepek finished with 10 strikeouts in his seven innings of work, with three hits allowed, three walks, and three runs (one earned), while pushing his record on the year to 11-0.

Eiermann (8-1) was brilliant for a majority of the game as well, pounding a fastball up to 87 mph to both sides of the plate, while mixing in a late breaking slider and a quality changeup, striking out four, and walking none in 7.1 innings.

Plainfield North jumped on the board first in the second thanks to a Richard Bryza RBI bloop single to right, scoring Matt Babuskow (2-for-3, two singles, run scored) for a 1-0 advantage.

Naperville Central got on the board with two in the top of the third thanks to a couple Tiger defensive miscue. After a one out walk, sophomore Connor Gurnik’s infield pop-up was dropped along the first base line. With two on and two outs, the power hitting McMillen (headed to Iowa State for football), launched a two-run double to deep center field to give the Redhawks a short lived 2-1 lead. McMillen finished 2-for-4 with two RBI.

The Tigers answered in the bottom of the third on another Josh Garner RBI double, also scoring Van Duser who had doubled with one out. The score stayed tied at 2-2 until the extra-inning drama unfolded.

Plainfield North advances to the sectional championship for the third time under coach John Darlington, and for the second consecutive season will meet Downers Grove South (who won 12-2 over Downers Grove North on Wednesday.

“We’ve been hunting (DGS) down since they beat us last year, so we need another shot. They are a great team and Saturday is going to be fun”, stated Strepek.

Saturday’s Romeoville Sectional Championship between Plainfield North and Downers Grove South will take place at 10 am on the campus of Romeoville High School.

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