NAPERVILLE – Eddie Scaccia is in a role reversal this postseason, a current position he’s quite comfortable in.
Scaccia pitched as a reliever during Oswego’s playoff run last year to a sectional final. He provided a strikeout pitcher out of the bullpen.
He still has a big arm, but now it’s as the ace of Oswego’s starting rotation. Scaccia was the conference Pitcher of the Year as his team won the Southwest Prairie West title. He’s the point man for what the Panthers hope is another extended playoff stay.
“It feels good,” Scaccia said. “I like the transition, I like controlling the game, that it’s on me. Last year we made a great run. I’m trying to help my team get out there and hopefully do even better.”
Scaccia is certainly off to a good start.
He struck out eight in a complete-game one-hitter, going the distance for the first time this season. Scaccia got plenty of support, too, as third-seeded Oswego beat 14th-seeded West Aurora 7-0 in Wednesday’s Class 4A Neuqua Valley Regional semifinal.
Scaccia walked four, the last two with two outs in the seventh, but bounced back for a game-ending groundout to finish off an impressive 108-pitch outing.
“I don’t know if he was as sharp as he’s been in the past, but when he gets it going he’s tough to hit, and he showed that today,” Oswego coach Joe Giarrante said. “He commanded a lot of pitches, got into a few deep counts, but overall he pitched his butt off. He put us in a good position.”
Chase Gerwig went 3 for 3 with three singles and scored two runs, and Trey Hernandez was 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs for Oswego (24-11), which scored four runs on wild pitches and two via the sacrifice fly in advancing to face the Neuqua Valley-Romeoville winner in Saturday’s regional final.
Scaccia (4-1) got off to a slow start to his season as he worked his way back from a shoulder injury.
He pitched in relief in his first couple of appearances in April easing back in, but quickly established himself as Oswego’s No. 1. Scaccia threw a 14-strikeout no-hitter in a start against Plainfield North, and the hard-throwing righty served notice again Wednesday that he can be leaned on in Oswego’s biggest games moving forward.
“He’s kind of like Joey [Cecola] was for us last year. He didn’t get off to a quick start, but he’s settled in and hopefully worked his pitch count up and is stronger going forward,” Giarrante said. “He’s going to have to be that guy, throw 100-some pitches, especially when things get a little deeper in the playoffs.”
On an afternoon with a howling wind blowing in, Scaccia allowed a one-out single to West Aurora star shortstop Ryan Niedzwiedz in the first inning. But Scaccia retired the next six batters, and allowed just two more baserunners until the seventh.
Only one West Aurora runner reached second base, on the back-to-back walks in the seventh. Unlike his previous start, when Scaccia ran out of gas in the sixth against Yorkville, he finished what he started this time.
“That game was definitely on my mind out there,” Scaccia said. “I definitely didn’t feel like I had my best stuff early on, but I found it as I got out there. I lost it a little bit at the end but I got through it.
“I started off the season slow, picked it up in the middle, rocky start last week, but good to come out here and helped my team the best I could.”
West Aurora (12-19), which was swept by Oswego during the conference season, only saw Scaccia in relief during that series.
But Blackhawks coach John Reeves was well-aware of what his team was up against Wednesday. West Aurora was shut out six times this season, four of those times in SPC West games.
“He’s good, and they’re a good team,” Reeves said. “We sometimes struggle to score runs anyway. Once they got up four, five runs with that guy on the mound, it’s a pretty big lead to come back from.”
Gerwig singled to lead off Oswego’s first, went to second on an errant pickoff throw, and scored on a Hernandez single. The Panthers tacked on three runs in the third, two coming on sacrifice flies by Hernandez and Ethan Valles and the third on a wild pitch.
Oswego scored three more runs courtesy of West Aurora wild pitches in the sixth to break the game open.
“I think that first run in the first inning was huge for us. We sort of settle in when we start scoring runs,” Giarrante said. “We ran the bases great and took advantage of some of their mistakes. We did enough to get seven runs.”