MINOOKA – Minooka baseball coach Jeff Petrovic thinks his team is built around its defense and pitching, and both showed up in Tuesday’s Southwest Prairie Conference opener.
Though Joe Butler had only one strikeout in six innings, the combination of a lack of hard contact by Central and a defense that turned three double plays, allowed Butler and reliever Miguel Ruiz to shut out Plainfield Central in a 7-0 Minooka win.
“With the wind blowing in, I knew I wasn’t gonna [allow] any bombs, homers or anything,” Butler said. “I was just trying to get grounders, and especially when there was a guy on first, I was just letting them turn two, and my defense did a great job behind me. So did my catchers.”
Central’s first inning was a preview of what was to come. After Danny Brandon reached on an infield single, Christian Armstrong hit a slow grounder to short that the Minooka trio of Neal Tyrell, Jake Null and Brennan Polcyn turned into a double play.
“It’s a momentum killer,” Petrovic said. “There they start off the first inning with their leadoff batter getting on, and they hit a little nubber that you’re just hoping to get one out, and we get two.”
The Minooka (6-1, 1-0) offense was at times as much a product of what Central did not do as what the Indians did – the Wildcats made six errors and allowed five unearned runs. Minooka did, however, produce 11 hits against the Central pitching tandem of Nick Rana and Johnny Kostelz.
Tyrell scored Minooka’s first two runs – one in the first on two-out infield single by Polcyn, and the other in the third on a double by Cristian Sanchez, who later scored himself. Sanchez later doubled and scored during Minooka’s four-run fifth inning, capping a 3 for 3 day.
“My approach at the plate was, in the first inning, trying to see strikes. Trying to see what the pitcher had,” Sanchez said. “After I saw his pitches, going into the second at-bat, I knew what he had, and I just wanted to jump on a good pitch, and I got a nice pitch up and in and I drove it. My third at-bat, I didn’t take the best swing, but I got lucky.”
The Wildcats (2-4, 0-1) only went down in order once, but they also never got a runner in scoring position. Singles by Brandon, Armstrong and Matt Bunetta were their only hits.
“[Butler] did a good job with the wind blowing in and keeping the ball down,” Wildcats coach John Rosner said. “Any little rally that we could’ve started ended because we ended up grounding into a double play, and they made some good plays defensively to do that.”