MAPLE PARK – One of the trends in baseball is for teams to put its best hitters higher in the lineup to get them more opportunities.
Oswego did that Tuesday – and then its big bats made the most of its chances. The Panthers rallied for a 9-6 victory in nine innings over Kaneland in a second-round regional game of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic in Maple Park.
Leadoff man JD Miller, Cal Hejza, Garry Maynard and Luke Menard combined to go 12-of-17 with eight runs scored, six runs batted in, three walks and a sacrifice fly.
“The top of our order is pretty strong,” Menard said. “We start with JD who is going to play D1 baseball so he’s a good guy to start and Cal at No. 2 always put the ball in play, Garry’s a big power hitter and I’m just there to clean up with the RBIs.”
And clean-up Menard did, driving in four runs, including the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth on a bases loaded walk – and one in which he fell behind 0-2 in the count to Kaneland southpaw Angel Acevedo.
“After going down 0-2 I just scooted close to the plate so he couldn’t hit the outside,” Menard said. “I think having a bunch of lefty guys batting in a row kind of messed him up a bit.”
Kaneland (17-8) snuck ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Michael Rogers singled, stole second and came all the way around to score on an errant throw and Angel Acevedo walked and then scored the go-ahead runner on Nik Panico’s double.
The Panthers (9-4) forced extra baseball in the seventh inning on Menard’s RBI single to right field. They then had a chance to pull ahead with runners on the corners and only two outs, but their next two batters struck out.
Kaneland nearly won it in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases on a Jonathon Alstott single, but Thomas Shaw flew out to end the threat.
“They had the lead the most of the day and we kept coming back and tying it up,” Knights coach Brian Aversa said. “I thought our pitchers did a nice job except for trouble in the end where they put some runs on the board and we couldn’t catch up.”
Despite the loss, it was a successful summer for the Knights.
“We had good weekend tournaments where we were successful and finished second in both,” Aversa said. “We put together a good body of work and saw some guys step up.”
Alijah Acevedo led Kaneland with a double and home run while Nick Ortegel added three basehits.