No. 2 Lincoln-Way North Takes Down Crown Point (IN) 11-1



By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

FRANKFORT, IL – In a matchup between two of the better Midwest area draft prospects Illinois’ No. 2 Lincoln-Way North pounded No. 12 Crown Point 11-1 in a shortened, five-inning mercy rule contest. Arizona State-bound Liam Jenkins squared off with Louisville-bound Noah Burkholder in front of a large contingent of professional scouts.

What looked to be a premier pitcher’s duel ended quickly as Burkholder was lifted following back-to-back strikeouts to lead off the top of the second inning. The 6-foot-6 right-hander was not injured, but was on a strict 50-pitch limit in his first outing of the season.

Lincoln-Way North touched up Burkholder for two runs in the first. Illinois-commit Ben Troike walked, stole second, advanced to third on a Tom Szczasny single, and scored on a wild pitch. Junior designated hitter Pat Troike drove Szczasny home with an RBI single past short.

Burkholder finished allowing two earned runs on two hits with three strikeouts and two walks, throwing 28 of 48 pitches for strikes. He topped out at 92 mph in the first, sitting mostly in the 88-90 mph range.

Two runs was all Jenkins would need, as the 6-foot-8 right-hander was in complete control into the fifth. Through four innings he struck out nine and did not allow a hit. Jenkins final line in 4.1 innings was 1 hit, 1 run, 10 strikeouts and two walks. More importantly, Jenkins impressed pounding his fastball down in the zone, throwing 53 of 79 pitches for strikes. Senior right-hander Scott Alroth entered with runners on second and third with one out in the fifth, and promptly struck out the next two Crown Point hitters.

Jenkins said, “The first time through the lineup I wanted to establish the fastball and that’s what we did today, get aggressive and make them hit it. I have a good defense behind me so I wanted to pound the zone”. The noticeably slimmer Jenkins also remarked, “Basketball season was great for me. I started the year at 250 pounds and am now 235. I feel more athletic on the mound”. The winter hard work is paying off early on for Jenkins, as his fastball has been consistently clocked in the low 90’s, touching as high as 94 mph on Wednesday.

Lincoln-Way North put up three runs with two outs in the second after Burkholder was lifted. Ben Troike greeted Crown Point’s reliever with a no doubt solo shot to left field. Troike added his second homer of the day to lead off the fourth, this one a bomb to left center on a 3-2 count. He finished 3-for-3 on the day with three RBI and four runs scored.

Phoenix coach Mitch Nowicki said about Troike and Jenkins, “When Ben stays compact with his swing like today you see what can happen. He’s been working his way into it early on. Liam commanded the baseball low in the zone, and he looked like he was letting it go today, not feeling for it. We went out with a plan to get beat with your fastball, and he went out today and dominated with it.”

North scored four more runs in the fifth to end it early 11-1. Szczasny was also 3-for-3 with four runs scored, senior outfielder Josh Mutter went 3-for-4 with three RBI, and Pat Troike rounded out the well balanced offensive attack for the Phoneix, going 3-for-4 with a double and 3 RBI. North pounded out twelve hits total, and improves to 2-3 on the season.

Nowicki noted on the tough early season schedule which has included losses to No. 1 Joliet Catholic, No. 9 Lockport, and a young rising No. 18 Brother Rice, “It’s forced us to work harder in practice, and shows our junior talent we need to grow up fast. We’ve had runs the last few years with long winning streaks. We are learning how to bounce back from losses and in the long run I think this will be good for us in preparing for the postseason.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Phoenix will face off against No. 6 Plainfield North at 11 am at home on Saturday.

No. 2 Lincoln-Way North 11, Oak Lawn 1

Lincoln-Way North faced off against Oak Lawn immediately following the Crown Point contest, winning again 11-1 thanks to a seven run second inning. Josh Mutter led the way at the plate and on the mound, going 2-for-2 with four RBI, earning the win on the mound with two innings of one-run ball with three strikeouts. Tyler Laux threw the final four frames, allowing two hits, no runs, with four strikeouts. North improved 3-3 with the win over the Spartans.

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