Glenbard East pitcher Anthony Esterly had a tough time keeping his flat-brimmed hat attached to his head in Wednesday’s DuPage Valley opener against West Aurora.
His teammates stopped counting the amount of times his hat flew off at about 30, busting his chops along the way. But Esterly was able to keep his head, hat or no hat.
He used an economical 58 pitches to fire a 2-0 shutout. Esterly scattered three hits, walked one and struck out six, also making four nice defensive plays off the mound.
“He’s been solid for us all year,” Glenbard East coach Joel Pelland said. “He pounds the strike zone and keeps the ball low. He forces guys to get outs. He allowed his teammates to keep working out there. He was very effective.”
The game changed in a series of half innings, starting with West Aurora’s bottom of the second. An error and a double from Quintez Jones put runners on second and third with no outs. But the Rams (8-5-1 overall) wiggled out of it. Esterly (3-1) made two nice plays off the mound and recorded a strikeout to end the threat.
Then in the top of the third, the Rams got some timely two-out hitting to take a 2-0 lead on West (2-6). With two outs, John Allen singled to load the bases. Then Justin Griffin came through with a clutch, two-run single to account for the lone runs of the game. Esterly then came out with a shutdown bottom of the third, giving Glenbard East the momentum.
“That was the game right there,” West Aurora coach John Reeves said. “Who knows what happens if we come through with a hit there, score some runs, who knows what it does for the complexion of the game?”
West Aurora pitcher Jared Liebelt (1-1) kept the Blackhawks in it all day. He was dazzling, recording 11 strikeouts while allowing only two runs on five hits and walking one.
“Jared did a heck of a job,” Reeves said. “Right now, he’s our ace.”
West’s best chance at a comeback came in the bottom of the sixth. Liebelt walked and D.J. Varney singled with two outs, but once again it was Esterly, with his hat falling off, making the play to end the inning.
“That’s every day,” Esterly said of the running joke with his teammates regarding his loose headwear. “That’s a regular thing.”
Due to the weather earlier this week, the first two games were rescheduled. Thursday, Glenbard East will travel back to West Aurora. Saturday, West Aurora will go to Glenbard East, knocking its nonconference game against Batavia off the schedule.