MINOOKA — What started out as a strong game for Minooka baseball Wednesday suddenly turned sour, as the Indians gave up 11 runs to Plainfield North after the fourth inning, losing the second game of a three game series 11-3 to the Tigers.
It was a pitching duel early, as Minooka senior Kevin Ruff and Plainfield North junior Brendan Miller traded zero spots in the first two innings. After another shutout inning in the top of the third inning from Ruff, Miller ran into trouble in the bottom half, as the Indians had loaded the bases up with only one out in the inning. After running Minooka catcher TJ Condon to an 0-2 count, Miller threw a pitch past catcher Zach Trusk, bringing in Tyler Thorson from third to give the Indians the early 1-0 advantage. That’s all Minooka could muster in that half inning, as a base running error led to a double play turned by Plainfield North on the next pitch.
“We made a couple errors early today,” Minooka head coach Jeff Petrovic said. “We killed ourselves on the base paths today.”
Ruff and the Indians carried their 1-0 lead into the fifth inning, where from there it all went downhill for Minooka. After getting runners on second and third with only one out, Tigers right fielder Zach Zyburt singled to right, bringing in both runs to make it a 2-1 North lead. Zyburt was thrown out trying to reach third on the play, though, so there were only two outs in the inning.
What followed were four two-out runs by Plainfield North, opening up a commanding 6-1 lead for the Tigers. Plainfield was fueled by a two-RBI double from shortstop Kyle Bledsoe that went past a diving Nick White in left field for the Indians. An RBI single by Trusk made it 5-1, and he later scored on a fielding error, resulting in the final tally of the half inning.
“We hit the ball hard today,” Plainfield North coach John Darlington said. “As we kept on hitting the ball, their pitcher (Ruff) started to get tired. Once we tired him out, we started to feel more confident in ourselves.”
Ruff didn’t last out of the half inning, only going for 4 2/3 innings of work, getting credited with all six runs in the inning.
“He said he was fine when we talked to him, but that inning was pretty long,” Petrovic said. “Things got away from him a little bit, but we didn’t help him defensively either.”
Plainfield North put the icing on the cake in the sixth inning, plating three runs on a Colton Smith three-run blast to dead center, making it a 9-1 Tigers advantage at the time and it really put the game out of reach for Minooka.
“Smith sat on a pitch that he wanted, he got it, and he hit it really hard,” Darlington said. “He’s been a heck of a player for us all season.”
As the Minooka pitchers continued to struggle, Miller found his groove for Plainfield, striking out 12 batters in the contest. He only allowed six hits as well in the game, as he threw 121 pitches in the complete game, 11-3 victory.
“I relied on my curveball a lot today,” Miller said. “I didn’t get ahead in a lot of counts, but I was able to get the curveball across the plate, and the fastball was there, as well.”
The win is double significant for the Tigers, Not only does it put them three games ahead of the Indians for first place in the Southwest Prairie Conference race, but it’s also Darlington’s 300th win as a head varsity baseball coach.
“He’s a great coach,” Miller said. “He’s the one that keeps us going so it’s great for him."
On the Minooka side, it wasn’t all smiles, as they realize now that the race for the conference title is probably over.
“There’s nothing good we can take away from this game,” Petrovic said. “We just have to come out and focus on tomorrow and nothing else."