JOLIET – A local rivalry took place, but not on either team’s campus as Lincoln-Way Central and Lincoln-Way West met Saturday afternoon at Joliet Route 66 Stadium under sunny, but windy conditions in a SouthWest Suburban Red Division Conference game.
A good crowd on both sides cheered every batter on their teams and every play in what turned out to be a great atmosphere for this matchup, with fans of local teams hoping that they can be back at this stadium in June.
After a scoreless first three innings, the Knights got on the board in the top of the fourth as they loaded the bases on an error, a single by Mark Husenger and after Mike Maloney was hit by a pitch. Then Mike Campo and Matt Maloney each got RBI singles with one out, and a wild pitch scored the Knights’ third run of the inning with two outs. That inning proved to be the difference in the game as Central (10-6, 4-0) came away with the 3-2 victory.
“These are always special games and you can throw out records in these type of games,” Central coach Mitch Nowicki said. “I’m just happy to be on the winning side, and we took advantage in the third inning and then we got some very good pitching to hold them down.
“We’ve now won six in a row and I like the direction this team is heading. It all started on the trip we took to Louisville, the bonding and togetherness this team got on that trip is really showing.”
The Knights threatened in the fifth inning with bases loaded and one out, but West reliever Jacob Paymaster pitched out of the jam.
Central starter Tim Rybarczyk went five complete innings and pitched into the sixth, but singles by the Warriors’ Martin Bender and Brendan Sturm chased Rybarczyk and Tate Dynia came in from the bullpen. After a wild pitch put runners on second and third, consecutive ground outs brought in the Warriors’ two runs.
“It’s a good feeling to beat your rivals,” Rybarczyk said. “I got into a little trouble in the first inning because I didn’t throw a lot in the bullpen before the game because my arm was a little tender, but after that first inning I felt fine and was really getting into a groove.
“I saw coach come out in the sixth and I really wanted to finish the game, but I trust Tate and our team, so we put it in their hands and it was a success. We are really excited with our team right now, how we are playing and were we are at with everything.”
Dynia and most of the players grew up with each other playing the game together.
“I’ve played with everyone over there on the West team and it’s a great feeling when you beat your buddies,” Dynia said. “Our team is really hitting our stride right now, playing well together at the right time of the season.”
Missed opportunities plagued West (9-5, 0-2) as it had runners on base in every inning but two, but couldn’t push more across when needed, including the first inning, when two of its first three batters reached base in that frame. The Warriors also had two on base in the fourth and fifth innings.
“One inning cost us today, but we had opportunities and just didn’t get the big hit when we needed,” West coach Jake Zajc said. “It’s disappointing because we had the chances, but give them [Central] credit because they did cash in on their opportunities and made some great defensive plays. They got the clutch hit and we didn’t.”