Baseball: Resilient Plainfield Central finds a way to survive

Wildcats will grapple with Bradley-Bourbonnais for regional title Saturday

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BRADLEY– A team often needs a little bit of everything to continue to play in the postseason.

Often, one of those necessary attributes is resiliency, and sixth-seeded Plainfield Central went to its reserves of that stash and found plenty to spare as it toppled third-seeded East Moline United 5-3 on Thursday in the semifinal round of the Class 4A Bradley-Bourbonnais Regional.

With the win, the Wildcats (17-13) advance to Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship where they face the ninth-seeded host Boilermakers (12-19), who made some postseason waves of their own by upsetting second-seeded Minooka on Wednesday.

Plainfield Central scuffled early in this one, particularly on offense. The Wildcats rapped two singles in the first inning and left them stranded then went largely dormant for the next two innings.

East Moline, which closed its season with a 21-8 record, manufactured two runs in the second thanks in part to charity from the Wildcats. An error and a passed ball accounted for the first run of the game when Nolan Malmstrom came around after singling. The error that allowed Quinn Scott to reach turned into the second run after a perfectly executed suicide bunt.

But the fact that Plainfield Central pitcher Cory Brock managed to limit the damage to two runs in the inning was a good sign and an important indicator of what would be needed later.

Brock settled in after the mishap in the second, breezing through the third and the fourth innings, allowing only one East Moline batter to reach base via being hit by a pitch.

Plainfield Central was able to turn consecutive singles by Joe Luciano, Emailaino Barraza, Owen Lopykinski and Cole Sisti into two runs in the fourth to tie it, then took its first lead in the fifth when Luciano turned in a potential double-play ball into a fielder’s choice, allowing Gavin Garnicka to score the go-ahead run. The Wildcats seemed close to breaking through.

But Brock ran into more trouble in the fifth, hitting two batters, then walking two more, the second forcing in a run to tie the game 3-3. But Brock bore down again and somehow was able to get out of that potential disaster with only one more run for East Moline.

“I looked at what I was doing wrong there and I was like, ‘I’m going to fix this right now,’” Brock said. “Just throw the ball down the middle, let them hit it and let the defense do the rest.”

Plainfield Central continued to grind on offense as its 11-hit attack was all singles. But that grind worked for the Wildcats on this day. An infield hit legged out by Danny Doherty turned into a run when J.T. Augustyniak lofted a sacrifice fly to put the Wildcats up 4-3. Plainfield Central added an insurance run in the seventh after a two-out error allowed Lopykinski to reach, and a bobble in the outfield on Sisti’s single and aggressive baserunning allowed the Wildcats to stretch the lead to 5-3.

It appeared Brock might need the extra cushion to close things out. East Moline started the inning with a single. After a strikeout, Ramsey moved up to second on a wild pitch. Augustyniak then saw Ramsey trying to make a risky rush to third base on an infield grounder and that got him caught in a rundown for the second out. Brock added a little drama by walking Jayson Savier to put the potential tying run on base, but struck out Dominic Stottler to end the game.

“We talk to our guys all the time about the fact that you can’t always go into a game saying this is how we’re going to win this game,” Plainfield Central coach Robert Keane said. “You’ve got to allow yourself to adapt and adjust. Baseball is a game of adjustment. So they did a great job of saying, “Hey, we’re going to piece this together, playing small ball, running the bases hard and giving us an opportunity by keep putting the ball in play.”