OSWEGO – A leadoff base bit by Josh Garner and a perfect sacrifice bunt by pitcher Joe Callahan put Plainfield North in position for a seventh-inning rally, but it didn’t come easy.
“It was nerve-racking considering that I haven’t hit in a few weeks,” Callahan said of getting the bunt down that put the tying run on second.
Jason Pacanowski, who struck out in his first two at-bats, was next in the batters’ box for Plainfield North in the Class 4A Oswego Sectional semifinal.
“Whenever I’m in the box, I try not to think about anything,” Pacanowski said. “Just see the pitch coming at me.”
Pacanowski saw it and ripped a game-tying single to center field. Zach Jarosz reached on an error and two walks later, North had a 3-2 win over Neuqua Valley and a spot in Saturday’s sectional championship game.
Matt Welch was given an intentional pass to load the bases and Bryan Van Duser drew the game-ending walk that made a winner of Callahan and gave extra meaning to Pacanowski’s hit.
“It felt good to battle back, especially after two K’s to start the day, come back and get a good hit like that,” Pacanowski said. “It couldn’t have come at a better situation.
“When a pitcher is pitching an absolute fantastic game like that, whether it’s Joe or any other pitcher, it’s the team’s duty to put some runs up.”
Callahan retired the first 10 batters and faced the minimum through four innings. A throwing error led to Neuqua taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth.
North (28-8) fell behind, 2-0, in the sixth when Callahan gave up an RBI double to Tyler Tesmond. But Callahan regrouped in the seventh and retired the side in order, including a called third for his eighth strikeout.
“I just kept battling out there,” Callahan said. “The mound was kind of breaking up a little, but I found my rhythm and stuck with it through seven.”
“I thought our kid pitched his butt off the entire day,” North coach John Darlington said. “He had a couple things go bad for him.”
The good started for North when Jack Butler delivered a two-out RBI single in the sixth to cut Neuqua’s lead to 2-1.
Neuqua starting pitcher Matt Butler struck out six and yielded one run before Andy Sommers took over on the mound after the leadoff hit in the seventh.
“We finally a couple hard the last two innings,” Darlington said. “Before that, [Butler] had our number. He was throwing three pitches for strikes. Eventually he got a little tired and we got some good swings late.”