OSWEGO – Noah Dowler has an older brother and two teammates who are household names around Illinois baseball as Division I pitchers.
With starts like Monday’s, he’ll make a name for himself.
Oswego East’s junior right-hander turned in the finest start of his young varsity career in a big moment. He struck out seven, coming one out short of a complete-game shutout in the Wolves’ 3-0 win over visiting Oswego in the opener of a three-game Southwest Prairie West series.
Dowler’s older brother, Adam, was the 2019 Record Newspapers Player of the Year as a sophomore, and is now at Louisville after graduating early.
Noah on Monday took some playful ribbing from the other side about his sibling.
But he dished it out, too, yelling in the direction of the Oswego dugout after getting a called third strike to end a nine-pitch at-bat to strand the bases loaded in the sixth inning while nursing a 2-0 lead.
“It was great,” said Dowler, who gave up five hits and four walks, giving way to Donovan Zielke with two out in the seventh. “I knew coming out here because of my brother they would be talking. They said ‘where’s your brother, you’re not your brother,’ just casual stuff. It was fun.”
That loose, yet competitive attitude was indeed evident as Dowler did his best work in the most difficult spot.
Oswego’s first three batters in the sixth reached on two walks and Tyler Stack’s single, loading the bases with nobody out. But Dowler coaxed a popup, threw home for a force out on a comebacker, then won a marathon at bat to preserve the lead.
“I knew if I could get the ball in play that I could trust my guys out there,” Dowler said. “Just trust my boys and throw some strikes.”
It was opportunity lost for Oswego (9-5, 4-3), which also left two runners on base in the seventh.
“We definitely squandered an opportunity to at least put some pressure on them and make them work a little more in the seventh,” Oswego coach Joe Giarrante said. “We tried to do a little too much there instead of passing the baton.”
Oswego East’s pitching staff is stocked with high-end junior arms, with Vanderbilt recruit Noah Schultz and Wichita State commit Ashton Izzi leading the way.
Dowler showed Monday it doesn’t stop there, locating his fastball and slider well, with a couple changeups and curve for good measure. On a chilly afternoon he retired seven straight batters after Oswego’s first two hitters singled to start the second inning.
“We knew we had a competitor in Noah and every outing he has gone out and given us his best, and obviously that’s what he did today.”— Oswego East baseball coach Matt Engelhardt
“He did a fantastic job,” Oswego East coach Matt Engelhardt said. “We knew we had a competitor in Noah and every outing he has gone out and given us his best, and obviously that’s what he did today. Even with a tighter strike zone, he kept his composure, kept painting the corners. He’s been keeping people on their toes all year mixing in the changeup and it’s real deceptive, and his defense picked him up a couple times.”
Zielke did so in the second inning, throwing out an Oswego runner at the plate trying to score on a short fly ball to right field.
The Wolves (5-6, 3-4), meanwhile, managed just three hits off Oswego pitchers Adam Dietz and John Buckley, but maximized that production.
In the third inning Carter South singled, took second on a bobble in the outfield and eventually the run scored on Zielke’s RBI groundout. Jonas Gulbrandsen was hit leading off the fourth and came around to score on Nick Caruso’s perfectly-executed squeeze bunt. In the seventh Camden Ruby doubled in Gulbrandsen, who reached on en error, to make it 3-0.
“We said we’re going to need to manufacture some runs in our conference and play small ball and today we had some really good at bats,” Engelhardt said.
Landon Sebestin had two hits and Paxson Hejza and Brady Peterlin each drew two walks for Oswego.
“He [Dowler] did a good job keeping us off-balance,” Giarrante said. “We were trying to figure out what he was throwing offspeed, a changeup half-slider little thing. Whatever it was, it was working, tip your cap to him. We have to execute a little bit better in the batter’s box. Tomorrow is a new day.”