No. 22 Waubonsie Takes Second Straight Game Over Rival Neuqua Valley

By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

NAPERVILLE, IL – No. 22 Waubonsie Valley has been on a roll this season, winners of ten straight going into their key Upstate 8 Valley series with neighboring rival Neuqua Valley. The Warriors won Tuesday’s contest behind a complete game effort from junior ace lefthander Brandon Petersen. Wednesday’s game was a back-and-forth battle with five lead changes as the Warriors once again relied on strong pitching and defense to take down the Wildcats 5-4 in seven thrilling innings.

Waubonsie struck first in the top of the second against Neuqua Valley starting pitcher senior Alex DiFranco. Rightfielder Joe Spano walked and advanced to second on a Quinton Zielke single. After a walk loaded the bases, junior second baseman Nick Santoro lifted a sacrifice fly to center plating Spano for the first run of the game.

Neuqua responded in the bottom half of the inning, with DiFranco helping his own cause drilling a two-run homer to left off Waubonsie junior righthander Jason Neville to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. The lanky 6-foot-4 junior immediately upped his game, striking out the next three Wildcat hitters, featuring a fastball up to 86 mph and a hard, late breaking 77-79 mph slider.

DiFranco and Neville locked horns in a pitcher’s duel until the fifth when Waubonsie broke through with a three-run frame. Santoro led off the rally with a walk and promptly stole second base. With one out, senior shortstop Garret Howicz singled sharply to left field, scoring Santoro and tying the game at 2. Howicz advanced to second on a throwing error on the relay. A single by junior catcher Nick Price put runners on first and third, and senior third baseman Ryan Jones drove home Howicz with a sac fly to center. Junior first baseman Brandon Petersen capped the scoring with an RBI double to deep left center scoring Price, putting Waubonsie up 4-2 entering the bottom of the fifth.

Neuqua responded in the bottom half of the inning with three straight singles by Nolan Hicks, Zach Herdmann, and Nick Hilgemann. Hilgemann’s RBI single to center scored Hicks, and the ensuing throwing error on the relay put runners on second and third with no outs and the score 4-3. As he did earlier in the game, Neville responded. After a Tyler Tesmond RBI groundout, Neville struck out the next hitter and then induced DiFranco to flyout to center to strand a runner at third and keep the game tied at four. After the three straight singles, Neville retired the next eight hitters he faced, before being removed with two outs in the seventh after taking a line drive off his leg.

With the score tied at four entering the seventh, senior leadership stepped up big for the Warriors again, Howicz led off with another line drive single to left, his third hit of the game. Price followed with a sharp single to left off Neuqua reliever Logan Vlk, who replaced DiFranco in the sixth. After a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch moved runners to second and third, Petersen came up big once again, lifting a sacrifice fly to shallow left field, scoring Howicz for the games deciding run.

Neville struck out eight in 6.2 innings, exiting after a line drive ricocheted off his leg for an out to Petersen at first base. Only three of his four runs were earned, and he impressed by not walking a batter in the outing. Waubonsie coach Bryan Acevedo said, “Each time they scored Jason bears down and goes after guys. That’s a good high school team (Neuqua) over there. He keeps us in games and gives us a chance every time out.” Quinton Zielke entered the game and nailed down the save, recording the final out on a flyout to Howicz.

Acevedo added, “At the beginning we knew we had a lot of talent, but nobody thought we’d be 20-3. It’s a testament to these guys buying in, taking the same approach every day. We’ve won twelve in a row and are playing with a lot of confidence. Every day it’s been somebody different stepping up.”

Junior catcher Nick Price went 3-for-4 at the plate with a run scored for Waubonsie. Neuqua Valley was led offensively by senior Nolan Hicks, who finished 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored.

Waubonsie has now extended their winning streak to 12 games, and sits at 20-3 on the year (14-1 in the Upstate 8 Valley). Neuqua drops to 18-6 (12-4 in conference).

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