Before he came to bat in the top of the fourth inning in Thursday's key SouthWest Suburban Blue baseball game, Sandburg senior Julian Gutierrez was advised by assistant coach Chuck Peters "to take the ball the other way."
Now the Eagles hope to take their conference fortunes the other way.
Gutierrez took the advice and jacked a three-run home run over the left-field fence to break an early tie and give the Eagles the lead for good. They went on to an 8-2 victory over Lockport in a first-place showdown at Flink Field in Lockport.
The Eagles (18-5, 9-0) haven't won a conference title since sharing it with Lockport and Lincoln-Way Central in 2010. The Porters (12-12, 7-2) have won at least a share of the conference the last four years.
"Lockport has a good team over there," said Gutierrez, who was 2-for-4. "So we had to be greedy. We wanted to keep getting more hits."
Sandburg had 10 hits off a trio of pitchers. But none was bigger than Gutierrez's fourth-inning blast. With the score 1-1 and two on with none out, he deposited a 1-1 pitch into the jet stream blowing to left. It carried for the three-run blast, his fifth round-tipper of the year, and the Eagles never looked back.
"Before I batted [assistant] coach [Chuck] Peters came up to me and told me to elevate the ball and to take it the other way," Gutierrez said. "So I had to adjust, and it felt good off the bat. The wind was howling that way, so once it got up there I figured it was gone."
The three runs were more than enough for Sandburg senior Sean Leland (5-1). The right-hander went the distance, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
"The support was great," Leland said. "It [three-run lead] made me a little more relaxed, but you can't go out there cocky. You have to still approach it like the score is 1-1."
The Porters did narrow the gap to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Anthony Coco. But Sandburg struck back for four more runs in the fifth. Jim Roche scored on a wild pitch, No. 8 hitter Ben Kociper (3-for-4, two doubles) had a two-run double, and Dan Santiago smacked an RBI single.
"Ben getting hits like that was awesome," Gutierrez said. "There was no time to lay down."
Sandburg took a 1-0 lead in the third when Jim Landgraf laced a two-out double to left. Lockport tied it in the bottom of the inning when Mike Formella (2-for-4) looped an RBI single over first to score Tyler Hair (2-for-4).
"Overall, I'm still pleased," Lockport coach Andy Satunas said. "We got seven hits off a Division I pitcher, and I'm happy with our growth at the plate. We just gave up too many  walks."
Leland, who has signed to pitch at Louisville, would love to have a conference crown in his final high school season.
"It would be awesome," he said of winning the SWSC Blue. "I haven't won a conference title as an Eagle on any baseball level."