PLAINFIELD — The Plainfield North baseball team took the postseason adage of survive and advance to the extreme Friday afternoon.
The Tigers, who were on the verge of invoking the mercy rule on a few occasions early in their Class 4A opening-round game against Bolingbrook, ultimately had to use a walk-off hit batsman to secure a 12-11 victory and move on to play another day in the postseason fray.
Plainfield North (17-11) advances to the Sectional C/Regional 6 championship game, where they will host Yorkville or Oswego East at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
“It’s bad when you win, and you’re still upset,” Plainfield North coach John Darlington said. “Their kids hit the ball.”
The Tigers looked well in control heading into the top half of the seventh, carrying a seven-run lead and needing only three outs to end the game. Bolingbrook, which finished the season 6-12, started the inning with a hit batsman and a walk before stringing together six consecutive hits off a pair of Plainfield North relief pitchers.
A third reliever, Ethan Cook, was brought on to try to extinguish the fire that started with a flicker but quickly turned into a blaze. Cook did his job, inducing a ground ball out for the first out of the inning, but it was placed in a way that allowed Bolingbrook to score the tying run. Cook then issued a walk before striking out the next two batters to get the Tigers out of the nightmarish inning.
Bolingbrook’s euphoria from tying the game didn’t last long.
The Tigers opened their half of the seventh by coaxing a pair of walks, and then Brandon Bak was plunked by a pitch to load the bases. With nowhere to put Alex Brodie, the game came to a close when he was clipped by a pitch to force in the winning run.
The game had a few twists early, as Bolingbrook leaped in front, 2-0, only to have Plainfield North come right back with five runs over the first two innings. But the Tigers appeared to have the game well in hand after scoring six more runs in the third to build a seemingly insurmountable 11-3 lead.
Bak settled in on the mound after the first inning, as he allowed only four hits in his next five innings of work before being relieved.
“I though he threw well,” Darlington said of Bak. “Obviously, we probably should have left him in, but he was getting close to his pitch count, then you start thinking about [the fact] you are up 11-4 and what can you do on Wednesday if you get there?”
Plainfield North’s bats were quieted after the first three innings, getting only a Bak double in the fifth. Baserunners by other means continued to pile up for Plainfield North, but they couldn’t get the knockout blow that could have ended the game early.
“We did not play well, but we won,” Darlington said. “And that’s the main thing. This is in the rear view.”