Prairie Ridge was three innings away from elimination at the Phil Lawler Baseball Classic, but the Wolves weren’t concerned.
“No, this team is full of fight,” Prairie Ridge pitcher Alec Thune said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on.
“It’s just a fighter’s mentality. We never say never until the last pitch is thrown.”
When the last pitch was thrown Monday night, the Wolves had rallied from a 3-0 deficit and emerged with a 6-4 win over Downers Grove South at Benedictine University.
Prairie Ridge (19-4) will play at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Central College against the loser of Tuesday morning’s game between Joliet Catholic and Crystal Lake South.
Joliet Catholic (16-0) had edged the Wolves 1-0 in nine innings earlier Monday, a result that left Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro fuming.
“I was ready to kill someone after that last game,” Pecoraro said. “They bounced back and that’s a credit to them because I was a raving lunatic after that game. I was very angry and they could tell by my body language that I was upset because we had chances to win that game and we didn’t, but I was proud of them for bouncing back.”
Downers South (14-8), which earlier blew a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning and lost 10-3 in eight innings to Crystal Lake South, scored twice in the bottom of the second and once in the third, part of a 10-hit attack against Wolves starter Jon Tieman.
But the Mustangs, who stranded six runners, had two men thrown out on the bases, including one at home plate, made two fielding errors and several mental blunders.
The biggest miscue came during the Wolves’ four-run fifth when a grounder up the middle went under the glove of shortstop Joe Lacivita, allowing the first run to score. Nick Schmidt and Cal Aldridge later had run-scoring singles sandwiched around a sac fly from Connor Schneider.
“I think that was a double play ball that Joey will turn eight or nine out of 10 times and it just went right under his glove,” Downers South coach Darren Orel said. “That hurt because if he turns it there they’ve got two outs and a man on third base and maybe they don’t score.
“We really helped them out there. We were leaking oil in terms of pitching so it was a situation when you get a lead like that, you cannot make errors.”
The Mustangs tied it at 4-4 in their half of the fifth when Corey Vondra singled, stole second and later scored on a Ryan Taylor groundout.
But the Wolves retook the lead in the sixth when Luke Annen singled with one-out and scored on Ben Cilano’s booming double to the wall in left field.
“It was actually a hit-and-run and I was supposed to hit it [to right field] and I took it to [left], but I’ll take it,” Cilano said.
Prairie Ridge added an insurance run in the seventh when Jacob Carpentier stole home with two outs as part of a double steal.
Thune nailed down the save by pitching two hitless innings of relief to keep alive a season that’s been defined by several comebacks.
“Coach really preaches our mental toughness,” Cilano said. “That’s something we definitely focus on.
“Never giving up is something we really try to follow. It really worked for us in the spring season and we’re continuing it here and we’re excited.”