NEWARK – Coaches talk all the time about how doing the little things can make the difference between a win and a loss.
Throughout this memorable season, including a 12-2 victory in five innings in Wednesday’s Class 1A sectional semifinal over Winnetka North Shore Country Day, the Newark baseball team has proved the statement true.
One instance of proof came during the top of the fifth inning. The Norsemen held an eight-run advantage when a return throw to first to complete a double play skipped past first baseman Luke Hauge, but there to back up was hustling catcher Lucas Pasakarnis, who fired a strike to second to get the batter trying to advance to end the inning.
“A lot of kids can make that throw, but a lot of kids wouldn’t have been there,” Newark coach Josh Cooper said. “I mean, it’s 90 degrees out, [Pasakarnis] is wearing that catching gear all game long, he’s been on base every time up, we are up a bunch of runs, and he’s hustling to where he is supposed to be. On top of that, our infield has been pretty solid, so to have an errant throw on that play was a little of a surprise. But great players never stop hustling and in turn put themselves in position to make great plays. That is how Lucas plays the game.”
Newark (24-1) will host the sectional championship game at 4:30 p.m. on Friday against Grant Park, a 10-4 winner over St. Bede.
The hosts, which finished with 13 hits, scored three times in the first off Raiders starter Panagiotis Kanellos, added one in the third, sent 11 batters to the plate in a five-run fourth and put the game away with a three runs in the fifth.
Pasakarnis had a solid day at the plate, going 4 for 4 with four runs scored, a double, three RBIs and a stolen base to lead the Norsemen. Newark also received contributions from Tegan Kruser (double, two walks), Jared Slivka (two RBIs), Dalton Reibel (two singles), Joe Martin (double, two walks, three RBIs), Jake Kruser (RBI), Mitchell Kruser (RBI) and Ethan Jeffers (two singles).
“We got ourselves into some good hitter counts and had a few really hard-hit balls. Early in the season we really were driving the ball, then in the middle I feel we struggled a little bit being consistent, but the last few weeks we’ve been hitting the ball well as a team.”
— Newark junior catcher Lucas Pasakarnis
“We as team were talking about in the dugout on how we didn’t feel [Kanellos] was going to blow it by any of us, so we needed to stay focussed on hitting the ball back up the middle or to the opposite field,” Pasakarnis said. “We got ourselves into some good hitter counts and had a few really hard-hit balls. Early in the season, we really were driving the ball, then in the middle I feel we struggled a little bit being consistent, but the last few weeks we’ve been hitting the ball well as a team.”
While the Norsemen bats were pinging the ball all over the yard and when needed putting down a handful of perfect bunts, Reibel was solid from start to finish. The senior right-hander scattered seven hits, walked one, struck out five and didn’t allow an earned run to improve his record to an eye-popping 10-0.
“Our offense came to hit today, and we did a great job of getting down bunts and putting pressure on the defense,” Cooper said. “To go with that, Dalton did a great job of just throwing strikes and making them put the ball in play for our defense to make plays. This was a really nice team win for us.”
Along with doing all the little things well, Pasakarnis said he feels the team has an overall confidence that when the dust settles after every game they are going to be on top and advancing to the step.
“I think a big reason for our success this year is that we want to win every game, and believe we can,” Pasakarnis said. “No one complains about anything, we just come out and want to do our job, whatever it is, and just be the best teammates we can be for each other. We want to be great and do something this school has never seen before as a baseball program.
“Newark has always been known as a great basketball/volleyball school, but we are hoping this season is a start of us being known as a great baseball school too.”
I worked for 25 years as a CNC operator and in 2005 answered an ad in The Times for a freelance sports writer position. I became a full-time sports writer/columnist for The Times in February of 2016.
I enjoy researching high school athletics history, and in my spare time like to do the same, but also play video games and watch Twitch.