Justin Placko’s innings have been reined in since shoulder soreness shut him down this spring.
The leash was extended Monday, and he ran with it.
Prospect’s senior right-hander required just 83 pitches to twirl a complete-game two-hitter, and the Knights staved off elimination in the Phil Lawler Classic summer baseball tournament by beating Glenbrook North 5-0 on Monday at North Central College.
“I’m probably not exactly where I was last year at this time,” Placko said, “but I’m getting pretty close.”
Indeed, Prospect coach Ross Giusti called Monday’s outing a reflection of Placko’s “lights-out” summer of 2013 that put him in line to be the Knights’ No. 2 pitcher entering the spring.
Placko, though, was shelved for three to four weeks after straining two tendons in his rotator cuff. He has pitched off and on for both his Prospect and travel teams this summer, throwing 62 pitches in his last outing seven days ago.
Against Glenbrook North, his longest outing this summer, he struck out three, walked four – and most importantly kept his pitches down in the zone.
“He was hitting the knees,” Giusti said. “When he’s down low it means he’s extending better at the plate.”
Prospect’s win puts the Knights (26-6) into a 12:30 p.m. game Tuesday at Benedictine University against the loser of the 10 a.m. St. Laurence-Nazareth contest. St. Laurence beat Prospect 12-4 earlier Monday.
Glenbrook North (18-10) dropped a 4-3 decision to Nazareth Monday afternoon. Faced with an immediate turnaround, the Knights weren’t at their best against Prospect.
The Spartans committed four errors leading to four Prospect runs. In the first inning Glenbrook North’s right fielder got turned around on a Lucas Karz fly ball and dropped it, allowing the game’s first run to come in. Prospect tacked on two runs each in the fourth and fifth, single runs in each frame scoring on errant infield throws.
Glenbrook North starter Peter Koulogeorge, the victim of the shaky defense, held Prospect hitless until Tyler Damasky’s two-out single in the fifth. Karz doubled in a run off of Koulogeorge in the fifth.
“We didn’t make the plays,” Glenbrook North assistant coach Ryan Graham said. “When you make your pitcher throw more pitches it’s tough on him. Peter has done a great job all year long. We didn’t make the plays behind him.”
The Spartans had an immediate shot to match Prospect’s first-inning run when Harrison Solano, who had two hits, doubled to lead off the bottom half.
Placko came back to retire the next three batters, two on strikeouts, and worked out of a two-on, none out jam in the third. In the fifth, after a pair of walks put runners on the corners with one out, Placko was bailed out by a double play slickly turned by shortstop Jake Cavaini and second baseman Matt Nadler.
“My arm felt pretty good – just throwing it down the middle and hoping they’d put it in play,” Placko said. “I’m usually pretty good in those situations when men are on base. I knew my team had my back.”