Baseball: Plainfield North downs Naperville North to advance to regional finals

The game was scoreless through three and a half innings before the Tigers broke through

Plainfield North (correct logo)

PLAINFIELD – Thursday’s Class 4A Plainfield North Regional semifinal between Plainfield North and Naperville North was a true pitchers’ duel for the first 3½ innings. Then, the Tigers finally broke through, if only just a little.

That little was all they needed.

A two-run single by Kyle Darlington in the bottom of the fourth scored David Wick and Colin Doyle to put Plainfield North up by two. The Tigers added another later just for good measure and got out of the contest with a 3-0 win to advance to the regional finals.

Plainfield North (16-17) got through most of the day on the arm of Ryan Mickenbecker, who allowed a mere four hits and one walk while striking out three batters. Joey Giuliani contributed a solo home run in the fifth along with a key defensive grab in the sixth to help the Tigers get the win.

Ask Mickenbecker, however, and he’d give all the credit to those around him.

“My pitches were alright,” Mickenbecker said. “My throws weren’t really on at the start. Without the defense I’m nothing, to be honest. We had good plays. That’s about it.”

Don’t let the nonchalant attitude fool you. The Tigers entered the regional tournament knowing they’d need their arms and fielding to carry the load. Plainfield North came into the postseason having lost eight of their previous 10 contests with four shutouts. Even one of the wins was just 1-0 and they’d put up just seven runs in their last seven contests, five of which came in a loss to Minooka.

With the offense struggling, Plainfield North knew it needed defense and pitching to make a playoff run. It’s only one game, but so far, so good.

“We’ve struggled offensively for about the last month,” coach John Darlington said. “I felt like today we concentrated a little more and got on base a little more. We had some opportunities early, we just didn’t get a hit. Then finally, we got a big hit when Kyle drove the ball in and it paid off for us.”

Plainfield North managed five hits and three walks, with Darlington’s two RBIs leading the way.

“It feels great,” Giuliani said. “I’m excited for Saturday to see what comes for us.”

As for Naperville North (15-15), it was a disappointing end to the year. Zach Sumser recorded five strikeouts and allowed just five hits and two earned runs. John McCabe and Will Richards doubled, Richards picking up two hits. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they couldn’t get anyone home; only one runner reached third in the last inning.

Coach Jimmy Chiappetta was grateful and appreciative of the effort his seniors gave not just on Thursday, but for the past four years.

“I’m proud of them,” Chiappetta said. “They busted tail for four years, competed and set a good example. Zach Sumser today on the bump came out and did what you expect out of a senior horse that’s done it for his career. It’s unfortunate when it ends, but I’m proud to know them and proud to continue to know them.”

Although saddened to see the seniors go, Chiappetta is confident in the direction the Huskies are heading.

“We’re a good mix,” he said. “Obviously, losing some of the seniors we’ll lose from a production standpoint on the bump and the middle of our order are things we’ll have to replace, but we had a number of young kids that got a lot of opportunities and experience. Oftentimes we had five, six, seven guys that were underclassmen. We’re looking forward to building there.”

The Tigers advance to take on Downers Grove South at 10 a.m. Saturday. Downers Grove South is the third seed while Plainfield North is No. 7. Coach Darlington knows the Tigers will need to be at their best to stay alive in the playoffs.

“[Downers Grove South] is pretty good,” he said. “They swing it really well, they have a good guy on the mound, and we’re going to have to do some things offensively that we haven’t done in a while. We have to put some balls in play and we can’t strike out as much, and that’s going to be a big part of it. In high school, you can make some errors. They’re really good, they’re well coached. We’ll have our hands full.”