CRYSTAL LAKE – Jacobs’ Luke Bellizzi’s ground ball to start the top of the seventh inning was hit just hard enough and perfectly placed.
Bellizzi stroked it down the third-base line and cruised into second with a double, which put the Golden Eagles in an opportune situation.
Jacobs did not have to worry about making solid contact against Crystal Lake Central lefthander Caleb Zautke, which had been a struggle for the first six innings.
Four of the next five Golden Eagles bunted, Jacobs scored three times, and sophomore Anthony Edge closed out the seventh inning for a 4-1 victory Thursday in Fox Valley Conference action at Central’s Fred Tipps Field.
“We didn’t have much hard contact [against Zautke]. We hit it right to the spot,” Bellizzi said. “The last inning we got things rolling and got a couple bunts and got on the board and saved the game.”
Jacobs coach Jamie Murray called Bellizzi over after he took Zautke’s first pitch for a strike and offered some encouraging, calming words. The next pitch, Bellizzi got the pivotal hit.
Edge then bunted to Central third baseman Colton Altergott, whose throw was wide of first base. Bellizzi scored on that play and Edge reached second. Michael Scardina bunted Edge over and leadoff man Quinton Schwartz ripped a double to center field, the hardest-hit all game for the Eagles (12-3, 7-0), to score Edge.
Kyle Washington bunted for a hit and Jack McMahon squeezed in Schwartz for the third run.
“We had to do a little small ball. We haven’t had to do that all year,” Murray said. “That’s the first time we’ve had multiple attempts like that. We teach it because there’s times when you need it. You’re struggling against a particular pitcher. We did a fantastic job executing those bunts in those situations.”
Edge knew what he would be asked to do when he was in the on-deck circle.
“I knew if Luke got on, I was potentially going to have to put a bunt down,” he said. “We hadn’t really hit that kid that well the whole game. We’ve been practicing that yesterday. That’s called ‘Hurry Zone’ for a good reason.
“Once we saw they had to hurry for it, we wanted to keep that train moving throughout the lineup.”
Jacobs’ first run scored with the help of an error. Only one of the Eagles’ runs was earned.
“They did the little things better than us,” Tigers coach Andy Deain said. “[Jacobs’] Nathan Chapman was outstanding on the mound, it was a really good pitchers’ duel. We have men on third twice with less than two outs, and we didn’t execute and they did.”
In the second, Chapman faced runners at second and third and one out, but struck out the next two batters. In the fourth, Central (5-6-1, 3-4) had a runners at first and third with one out, but Chapman got a ground ball back to the mound and the Eagles turned a 1-6-3 double play.
Chapman struck out eight and allowed five hits in six innings. Zautke fanned three, did not walk a batter and gave up four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“Just going up there and dealing,” Zautke said. “My outside fastball and my inside changeup were good. Not until the seventh inning when they started figuring me out and hitting my pitches. It felt great. This is definitely my best start of the year.”
Deain said Zautke, who missed time from a COVID-19 quarantine, has been sharp in every start, losing to Mundelein, 3-1, and to Dundee-Crown, 2-0.
Murray was thrilled by another good start from Chapman. Central’s leadoff man Brian Preshlock walked and scored on Braydon Gibour’s single in the first for Central’s lone run.
“He was outstanding,” Murray said. “The goal was to get a lead and get it to Edge at the end. I’m proud of the guys. They showed some grit and perseverance. They did a nice job.”