No. 4 Lincoln-Way East Battles Past No. 9 Lincoln-Way Central

By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

On Monday afternoon, No. 9 Lincoln-Way Central traveled to take on No. 4 Lincoln-Way East in a Southwest Suburban Conference showdown. The game was as advertised with plenty of energy and big plays on both sides of the field. In the end, a big four-run bottom of the fourth inning, propelled No. 4 Lincoln-Way East to a 5-2 win.

The Griffins of Lincoln-Way East (17-2) came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning after Lincoln-Way Central had just taken a 1-0 lead on a Ryan Kraft solo home run in the top half of the frame. The very first batter of the bottom half, Maxton Polad, hammered a moonshot to left field that cleared the fence easily and tied the game at one in a hurry. Later in the frame, junior OF Jake Petak battled and worked the count to full before delivering a go-ahead, two-out, RBI single to left field, putting the Griffins up 2-1. 

Later in the same inning, a seemingly meaningless squibber was hit down the first base line by leadoff man Zak Keegan. The ball was in foul territory going down the line but rolled back into fair territory at the very end of the play due to the amount of sidespin the squibber imparted. By the time a Lincoln-Way Central defender picked up the ball, Keegan had reached base, a run had scored, and in all the mass hysteria, a second runner came around to score all the way from second base. When all was said and done, Lincoln-Way East left the fourth inning leading 4-1 and never looked back.

Landen Looper, a Louisville commit, got the start for Lincoln-Way East and was in cruise control for much of the game. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound, right-hander attacked the strike zone throughout his outing at an above-average clip, landing 68% of his 93 pitches for strikes. He worked behind a fastball that topped at 86 mph, routinely going to a swing-and-miss curveball to keep hitters off balance. One of the more impressive things that stood out about Looper was the way he attacked hitters and the plan he seems to have on the mound. He would routinely sink his fastball when trying to go down in the zone or induce weak contact; he also had the ability to throw a true four-seamer at the top of the zone that plays straight with ride and jump at times. He also showed advanced feel for his curveball that he has the ability to manipulate depending on the hitter and the count. Looper would routinely land a 72-74 mph curveball in the zone for strikes and then would tighten it up with two strikes. His putaway pitch starts in the zone as a strike and ends up off the plate, inducing a number of swings and misses while sitting 75-78 mph. Looper, who got the win, ended up going 6.1 innings pitched, scattering five hits, two runs, one earned, striking out 11 and walking two. Looper was two outs away from a complete game when the Griffins turned to Danny Hiemer out of the bullpen with the tying run at the plate. Hiemer proceeded to make quick work of the Knights lineup getting a groundout and strikeout to pickup the save.

Polad, a senior Southeastern CC commit, added an extra insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning with a line-drive home run to left field, his second of the game. 

Ryan Kraft, a senior Indiana commit, was Mr. Everything today for Lincoln-Way Central. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound, left-handed hitter barreled up everything he saw on the day with authority. He left the yard in his first at-bat but due to the lack of an outfield windscreen and some confusion by the umpires, it was called a ground-rule double. He followed up with another home run in his second at-bat, this time a towering shot just right of center field. He then smashed a single up the middle in his third at-bat. He also came on in relief and topped out at 87 mph with advanced run and sink while mixing in a sweeping breaking ball. Kraft scattered one hit and struck out one in his inning of work on the mound. 

Up next for No. 4 Lincoln-Way East is a home game on Tuesday vs. Kankakee. No. 9 Lincoln-Way Central is off until Friday when they’ll match up against Andrew.


+ Landen Looper (Lincoln-Way East): 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 11 K, 2 BB
+ Maxton Polad (Lincoln-Way East): 2-for-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
+ Ryan Kraft (Lincoln-Way Central): 3-for-3, 2B, HR, RBI, R; 1 IP, H, K
+ Jake Petak (Lincoln-Way East): 2-for-3, RBI, R

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