MINOOKA — There were only three hits from the Minooka baseball team Wednesday evening against Plainfield Central, but the Indians sure made them count. The Indians used two home runs to propel them to a 3-0 victory over the Wildcats in the regional semifinal game.
Those two home runs for Minooka came on back-to-back swings in the bottom half of the first inning. With a runner on second base and two outs, right fielder Carson Neushwander came up to bat. After taking the first pitch, the senior drove one to deep right field and over the fence for a two-run shot against Central pitcher Tim Blake. It was Neushwander's third of the year.
"The first pitch he threw to me was a curveball, but then he came back with a fastball at me and I hit it," Neushwander said. "He didn't want to throw much at me after that."
After Neushwander's bomb gave the Indians a 2-0 lead, first baseman Max Brozovich stepped up to the plate. On the first pitch the junior saw, he belted one out to left-center field and it carried over the fence for another Minooka home run. With two swings of the bat, the Indians had gone up 3-0.
"When you give Josh Jimenez three runs to work with, you feel good about yourself," Minooka head coach Jeff Petrovic said.
Those three runs were all Jimenez needed, as the senior cruised on the mound for the Indians. The southpaw went six-plus innings, striking out 11 Wildcat batters in the process despite throwing 103 pitches. Jimenez improved to 9-2 overall on the season with an ERA of just below 1.4.
"I was really focused on hitting my spots today," Jimenez said. "I just wanted to focus on location more than velocity. I hit my spots well and kept the ball down. It all just worked out for me."
Jimenez ran into some trouble in the seventh as he walked the leadoff batter, prompting Petrovic to pull Jimenez from the game.
In came sophomore Mitch Vogrin, who had not given up an earned run all year at the varsity level. The hard throwing right hander came in, struck out Jackson Schanks and Matt Ryan back-to-back, and then caused Steve Hefferman to fly out to left, ending the game and securing the win for Minooka.
"Mitch is a really hard-nosed competitor," Petrovic said of his sophomore pitcher. "He really doesn't have nerves. He's the guy you want to put in those critical situations because he doesn't care what the situation is. He's just going to go in there and do his job."
Minooka improves to 23-13 overall, and now awaits a date with the Joliet West-Plainfield South winner this Saturday in the regional championship at 11 a.m.. The Indians, who are the top seed in the regional, look to bounce back after not reaching the regional title game last year.
"We have two tough teams to get ready for," Petrovic said. "It doesn't matter to me who we play. We just have to go out there and play our baseball, and we'll see where the chips fall."