PLAINFIELD— baseball coach Justin Cronin says he can get a feel for how a particular game may turn out by looking at the mood of his players on the bench.
Down 11-2 to Plainfield East going into the sixth inning of their regional-opening contest Monday afternoon, the Red Devils’ collective mood understandably wasn’t very chipper.
“If we see heads down or things like that, you know it’s going to be difficult,” Cronin said. “They started to teeter, but they kept that positive attitude; they kept working hard.”
And the result? The Red Devils came back from what appeared to be an insurmountable deficit. They scored seven runs in the sixth inning and tacked on four more in the seventh to win, 13-11.
Hinsdale Central, seeded 18th in the Neuqua Valley Sectional complex, will now host No. 4 seed Naperville Central in a regional semifinal game starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
That’s Naperville Central.
But Hinsdale Central goes into the matchup with nothing to lose. And who knows?
Third baseman Sam Lucente—whose two-run homer into a strong crosswind during the seventh put Hinsdale Central in front to stay—points out that the Red Devils handed Downers South ace right-hander Nick Burdi a rare loss earlier this season when no one expected them to.
“Everyone put us aside saying, ‘Burdi, Burdi, Burdi,’ ” said Lucente, who also had a ground-rule double in Hinsdale Central’s seven-run sixth. “But right here we proved them wrong and that we could do anything.”
“It’ll be a good challenge, and this is a group that will be up for the challenge,” Cronin said. “We’ll see where it takes us.”
Jacques Camalick led off the seventh with a solo homer to center field that cut the Plainfield East lead to 11-10. Later in the inning, pinch runner Matt Timmerman scooted from first to third on Alec Hutcherson’s single. Timmerman came home to tie the game when Tom Delzenero lifted a sacrifice fly to right.
That set the stage for Lucente’s heroics.
“Sam is fantastic, whether he’s leading off or hitting in the two hole,” Cronin said. “He’s a real good hitter.”
Both teams took advantage of a strong breeze blowing out from left to right field the entire afternoon.
Plainfield East built its lead via the long ball, hitting a three-run homer in the third to open up a 7-2 advantage, and a fourth-inning grand slam that made it 11-2.
Then it was Hinsdale Central’s turn.
Camalick and Chris Bobo smacked back-to-back solo home runs in the sixth, and the Red Devils trailed 11-4. Hutcherson reached base on an infield hit and scored when Phil Zarcone pounded a single off the center field fence.
Zarcone went to third following Lucente’s double. Then Adam Dressler, who took over on the mound in the fifth inning, drew a walk to load the bases.
Left-handed hitting shortstop and Illinois State recruit Matt Anderson put the Red Devils within striking distance at 11-9 after he launched a grand-slam home run with two outs.
“With the wind, anything that goes up in it had a chance,” said Cronin, whose Red Devils are now 15-20. “We hit some balls really, really hard. The key is putting good at-bats together, putting balls in play and giving things like this an opportunity to happen.”
Dressler kept Plainfield East off the scoreboard over the final two innings and pitched a perfect seventh to pick up the win.
“It’s a group that realizes they’re never out of anything,” Cronin said. “The ability’s there, and that’s when days like this come about for us.”