Baseball: Plainfield East completes wild comeback to beat Joliet Central

Plainfield East fell behind by six runs in the first two innings before rallying to win 10-8

Plainfield East's Evan Tonarelli

PLAINFIELD – Joliet Central and Plainfield East entered Tuesday’s Southwest Prairie Conference game with something to prove.

The Steelmen were looking to confirm that their Monday win over the Bengals was no fluke. The Bengals, on the other hand, were looking to demonstrate it was only a minor setback.

In the end, only one could be correct. Ultimately, it was the Bengals.

After falling behind by six runs in the first two innings, the Bengals staged an impressive comeback and held off a late rally by Central to win 10-8.

It didn’t look like they’d be getting the win early on. The Steelmen (7-13-1, 1-5) scored six runs in the first two innings to take a 6-0 lead. A day after losing to Central, it wouldn’t have been shocking if the Bengals (7-14, 2-3) had lost hope. Instead, they scored six of their own in the bottom of the second to tie it at 6 before going ahead and winning.

“After yesterday, we realized that we just needed to keep the energy up,” outfielder Evan Tonarelli said. “Down that many runs, you just have to know that you’re able to fight back. It doesn’t all need to be in one inning, you can slowly crawl back if you just keep the energy up.”

The Steelmen struck in the first inning as Jay Zepeda’s RBI double scored Nathan Maldonado and Rodney DeSilva to make it 2-0 Central.

After back-to-back strikeouts to open the second inning, Central got right back to pounding the ball on offense. Maldonado singled to score Noah Whitlock, and John Stasiak picked up an RBI single to score Maldonado and DeSilva. Vai Stulga scored Stasiak after that on a single to make it 6-0.

Plainfield East wouldn’t go quietly. Tonarelli scored Drew Janowiak and Mikey Bartels on an RBI double in the bottom of the second to cut the deficit to four. The game started rolling from there as Tonarelli scored on an error. Oscar Lopez then singled to score Jeremy Stokes before Danny Schuch and Lopez scored on an error to tie the game at 6-all.

After a 1-2-3 inning by Central, the Bengals kept the good times rolling in the bottom of the third. An RBI double by Tonarelli scored Harrison Gothelf to put Plainfield East in the lead for the first time, and a two-out RBI double by Cody Ray scored Tonarelli, Cru Christensen and Schuch to extend the lead to 10-6.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Central cut the deficit to three when Whitlock scored Stulga on an RBI single in the top of the fifth. The Steelmen made things interesting in the top of the seventh when they loaded the bases with only one out. Xavier Brass scored on a fielder’s choice, but that was it as the Bengals got the final outs and the win.

Head coach Adam O’Reel emphasized that the Bengals need to find consistency in order to record more wins but he praised his team’s resiliency and ability to find a way to win.

“We make games really interesting for ourselves,” O’Reel said. “We hung in there when we could have folded, so give our guys credit for that. We tend to just make a lot of little mistakes and put ourselves into big holes sometimes. Falling behind 6-0, putting a couple guys on at the end there, and we had to bail ourselves out. I give our guys credit because we took a tough loss yesterday and bounced back today after a slow start.”

Tonarelli went 2 for 3 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs. Lopes also had a two hit day, while Ray drove home three runs as well.

For Central, there were some positives. Whitlock was 3 for 4 and DeSilva was 3 for 5. There were a few solid defensive plays in the outfield early on, but ultimately Central was undone by its own mistakes.

“Seven walks and four errors,” Steelmen head coach Kevin Fitzgerald said. “You can’t do that. We outhit them 14-7, but when you make that many errors and give guys that many free bases you’re not going to be as successful as you want to be. We’ve got to clean it up defensively. ... We took some good at bats, but we have to keep the energy up.”