CHAMPAIGN — Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois sports complex was the site of the Hot Rod Power Tour Monday afternoon. The red-hot Minooka baseball team was also on tour at the same venue, playing in the University of Illinois Class 4A Baseball Super-Sectional.
Getting two runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth, plus a complete game effort from senior lefty Josh Jimenez, the Indians cruised past Naperville Central 6-3 to earn the right to advance to the state tournament.
It will mark the third time the locals will be making a state appearance (1962 and 2006). Coincidentally, Naperville Central handed Minooka it's last defeat in the state tournament — a 9-0 loss in 2006. Also of significance to the two schools was that the RedHawks eliminated Minooka in the Class 8A football series — behind quarterback Ian Lewandowski.
Lewandowski was on the mound for the game on Monday and the Indians struck first blood against him in the fourth inning. Max Brozovich reached on an error to start the inning and Carson Neuschwander reached on an infield single following a bunt. Nick Fleischauer then bunted the runners to second and third where Austin Polcyn doubled in both runners one out later.
"It was a 3-2 count and I was looking for something in. It looked fat," Polcyn said. "I can't explain how good it felt. It was an unbelievable feeling. At the time I thought it was pretty important that we were the first team to score."
Lewandowski got out of the inning without any further damage but designated hitter Cody Campbell wasted little time in evening the score after a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning.
However, Minooka bounced right back, peeled rubber and put a four-spot on the board to jump right back into the lead.
"That was great because giving up that home run shook me a little," Jimenez said. "It was a high curve ball and he hit it. But I knew I had to stay in there because the team was going to battle back."
In the Minooka fifth, Tyler Thorson singled down the left field line and T.J. Condon was hit by a pitched ball. Mitch Brozovich then broke the tie with an RBI double that scored Thorson.
"The hit gave us the momentum back," Brozovich said. "It ended up being a big hit for that reason — it felt good to get that hit on this sort of stage."
The Indians then revved up the engines and scored three more times.
Neuschwander was intentionally walked to load the bases, which set up a sacrifice fly off the bat of Fleischauer. Joe Carnagio then followed that by roping an RBI double to right-center field.
"It was really huge to have the team bounce right back like that," Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. "Not to give the other team the momentum. We've played very inspired baseball lately ... we've played really, really well."
Petrovic said that Jimenez pitched well, except for one backfire.
"It was one pitch, but then he ended up going right back to where we needed him to be," he said. "We also hit the ball well and played good defense. It really was a great team effort. This is not a team of big named players, but they like to play hard and get after it."
Minooka plays at Silver Cross Field in Joliet in the semifinals in a 5 p.m. game.