Naperville Central is a team built on pitching and defense, two pillars that collapsed in the sixth inning of Thursday's 9-8 loss to Naperville North.
The Redhawks were cruising in a continuation of game suspended after four innings two days earlier, with Central leading 4-2. North had just committed two errors in the top half of the sixth, allowing four runs to score, and it was almost as if Central couldn't handle it.
"8-2 lead, it seems like we did kind of loosen up there a little bit when they started (rolling), getting a few runs here and there," Central catcher John Holm said. "There was a couple double play balls in that inning that just didn't hop for us."
North converted three hits, three walks and an error into six runs and a tie ballgame. The pressure tilted all the way back to Central once Ben Kelsey delivered that walk-off hit in the seventh, and Jake Naumann, the North ace who pitched a perfect inning in relief to earn the victory, walked out for game two.
"I was hopin' the whole game I'd have enough to finish off the second one," Naumann said. "Got some guys swingin' at first pitches, and it worked out for me."
Naumann knew he would be used in game one if the Huskies tied the game or took the lead, and the junior allowed only four hits and an unearned run in eight innings on Thursday.
"What wasn't workin' for Naumann today?" North catcher Mike Nodzenski said, flipping a reporter's question. "He was able to spot the fastball. He was able (to) throw his breaking ball for strikes at different speeds (and) in particular today he was able to throw a split-finger (fastball) to put guys away with two strikes."
Central threatened in the sixth, loading the bases on an error, two walks and a fielder's choice. Holm drove in Central's run with an infield single to make it a 4-1 game, but Naumann next induced an inning-ending double play ball from Marc Mantucca. It was the only inning Naumann allowed more than four hitters to the plate (six).
"You know when (Naumann's) on the mound that we got to play tough D and just scratch (out) runs here and there," Holm said. "We didn't do that today."