Baseball: Lucas Acevedo, Lincoln-Way West stay undefeated, snap Joliet West’s win streak

Acevedo throws six strong innings, scores eventual game-winner as Warriors beat Tigers 7-5

Lincoln-Way West's Lucas Acevedo winding up to throw a pitch during the non-conference game against Joliet West against  on Friday, April. 19, 2024, at Joliet.

JOLIET – Lucas Acevedo didn’t want to mention the streak.

But the Lincoln-Way West junior right-hander certainly helped his team continue it.

Acevedo pitched six strong innings, reached base every at-bat, and scored what proved to be the winning run as Lincoln-Way West remained undefeated with a big 7-5 win over a very good Joliet West squad on Friday afternoon in Joliet.

The victory continued the Warriors’ (16-0) undefeated season. Joliet West (17-4) saw its 10-game win streak end.

“I don’t like to talk about it, I’m superstitious like that,” Acevedo said of being undefeated. “We just have to go out and continue to pitch and hit like we have.”

Veteran Lincoln-Way West coach Jake Zajc agreed.

“We’ve got to prove it every day and stick with the plan,” Zajc said. “We had to dig down deep to find a way to win and we did.”

They did thanks to a lot of key contributions. But Acevedo, who hit at the top of the lineup, was at the top of that list.

With the game tied at 5-5 and one out in the top of the sixth, he coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch. It was the fourth straight at-bat that he reached base, as he had two singles and reached on an error to lead off the third. But this time he ran for himself and went to third when junior right fielder Connor Essenburg (2 for 3, two runs, walk) inside-outed a pitch and lined a double down the right field line.

That brought up senior first baseman Jack Linko, who had two strikeouts and a flyout in his first two at bats. But he battled through this one and ended up dumping a two-run double in almost the same spot as Essenburg’s hit. This also went for a double and scored two.

“I wasn’t having the greatest day so I just had to flush everything,” Linko said. “I got down 1-2 and then fouled off a couple. The count got to 3-2 and I had the same approach. I got a pitch and fought it off for the winning hit.

“It’s been a common theme to face some adversity. But as a team, we’ve got the mindset to just fight through it and keep going. We just have to go out and play.”

Lincoln-Way West's Tyler Bartley slides to home plate during the non-conference game against Joliet West on Friday, April. 19, 2024, at Joliet.

In the bottom of the inning, Acevado went back out to the mound and got a quick three outs, stranding a runner at first and getting the final out on his eighth strikeout. He walked three, hit a batter, and allowed two earned runs on seven hits.

“Obviously, I wanted to go as deep into the game as I could,” said Acevado, who threw 55 of his 95 pitches for strikes. “I was going to only face two batters in the sixth but when I got the first two out quickly, I could stay in.

“My slider wasn’t working but my fastball was. So I was mainly sticking with that. I’m not afraid to go after them and I did, but on occasion, my changeup was working too.”

Colin McCarty came in to pitch in the bottom of the seventh. The senior lefty hit the first batter on the first pitch. But he got a pop-up and two straight called third strikes to end it.

“We gave them a lot and we played from behind all game,” Joliet West coach John Karczewski said. “But it was still a one-swing game from being tied at the end.

“We’ve been hot but we have to play in all aspects. They won on a flare. It’s a game of inches and it didn’t go our way.”

Acevedo led off the game with a single to center and junior Tyler Bartley, who scored two runs, ran for him and scored for the first time when junior designated hitter Ian Hazelip (2 for 4, 3 RBIs) hammered a two-out double to right center. He scored on an RBI single to left by senior third baseman Anthony Massa (2 for 4).

The Tigers cut the lead to 2-1 in the second on a first-pitch RBI single to center by senior center fielder Christian Chignoli.

LIncoln-Way West added two more runs in the third on a two-run single through the left side by Hazelip. But the Tigers tied it in the bottom half. Senior catcher Owen Young reached on a dropped pop-up with two outs. Junior courtesy runner Dan Markun later scored on a wild pitch, and senior second baseman Parker Schwarting smacked a two-run single up the middle.

Lincoln-Way West's Kaden Kopacz attempts to tag out Joliet West's Owen Young during the non-conference game on Friday, April. 19, 2024, at Joliet.

In the fifth, the Warriors added another run as Massa reached on a triple to right that was lost in the sun and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by senior second baseman Ben Shea, Joliet West tied it in the bottom half when starting pitcher Jimmy Anderson (2 for 3, walk, RBI) drilled his second double of the game down the left field line. But the Tigers left the bases loaded.

Joliet West senior shortstop Cael Karczewski was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and senior James Love, who pitched the final 2 1/3 innings, took the loss in relief.

There are many top-notch teams in the Class 4A Providence Sectional, including Lincoln-Way West and the Tigers. But with Friday’s result, the Warriors have an upper hand in determining which team gets a higher seed.

“Yes, we wanted to win for sectional purposes,” John Karczewski said. “But Lincoln-Way West is a good team and Jake does a great job with them. We just have to regroup.”

The Warriors just have to keep doing what they’re doing.

“Not really,” Linko said of the team feeling pressure. “We just have to stick to the game plan.”