PLAINFIELD – The traditional seeding method used to rank teams for postseason play sometimes exposes itself as flawed.
That certainly is the case regarding Plainfield East, who entered the postseason as the No. 13 seed in its grouping.
Since that rather unspectacular ranking was placed on the Bengals all they’ve done is beat two significantly higher seeds on their way to a regional championship, as they closed out fifth-seeded Plainfield Central on Monday afternoon with a 4-2 win.
“We’ve had good teams, and we’ve had really talented teams, and this team when we came out we were a below .500 team. But all year everyone was kind of in this situation, we were trying to figure these guys out. We haven’t seen some of these guys in two years,” Plainfield East coach Adam O’Reel said.
“As we figured it out, they were great teammates this whole time. They just all kind of saw how this worked, this is the most satisfied because of what they came through. We lost seven in a row at one point this year and to not shut down and do what they’ve done, we knew we had some arms, we just needed to score a couple of runs and play some defense and this could happen.”
East (14-15) has a pitching staff that belies that of a No. 13 seed. So, if the Bengals were able to scrape out a few runs on a soggy day the opportunity to continue to play spoiler certainly existed.
And in the third inning that opportunity came.
Nathan Rudd led off the inning with a single and after a fly out Brady Louck reached via a hit by pitch. Central had a chance to get out of the inning by turning a double play but couldn’t complete it, and on the back end a miscue allowed Rudd to come around with the first run of the game. Later in the inning, Jacob Eason swatted a two-run double to stretch the lead to 3-0.
And with East’s sophomore starting pitcher Louck, three runs looked like a mountain that was going to be hard for Central to climb.
Louck was a little rocky in the first inning but promptly fanned consecutive batters to close out what seemd to be a mounting Wildcats threat. After the first inning hiccup he was dominant, retiring eight consecutive batters and 14 out of 16 in an impressive stretch.
Louck ran into trouble in the sixth, surrendering hits to Josh Cunniff and Nate Buchan, and then a pair of errors prolonged the inning allowing two Wildcats runners to score. It was the kind of miscue-filled inning that may have led to another team folding under the postseason pressure.
Instead, Louck and the Bengals found their way through the trouble and he turned over the ball to Christian Mitchelle, who struck out two in the seventh to help secure the Bengals place in the sectionals.
East now will play either top-seeded Naperville Central or ninth-seeded Neuqua Valley in sectional semifinals. Because of their aforementioned low seed, the Bengals will continue to be on the road, as game location is decided exclusively by seeding through the sectional round of the state tournament.
But like most things in this postseason, the Bengals are fine with having to once again be road warriors.