GLEN ELLYN – Andy Nelson watched Wheaton North piece together a nice little-ball rally in the eighth inning Thursday.
His one swing changed the narrative.
Nelson crushed a tie-breaking grand slam, and Tyler Woltman threw out a runner at third to finish the Falcons' wild 12-10 win over Neuqua Valley in the Glenbard South Regional final of the Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
Ryan Russman drew a leadoff walk, Patrick Dosen was clipped by a pitch trying to bunt and Woltman reached on a bunt single to load the bases in the top of the eighth.
That brought up Nelson.
On an 0-1 pitch, he drilled a hanging curve over the fence in straight center.
"I sat curveball," Nelson said, "and I got it. I sensed that it was coming. My previous at bat I was on it, and I didn't connect. I got it that time. Right off the bat I knew it was gone."
So did Woltman, who was hardly surprised to watch the 400-foot blast.
"Andy does have that kind of power," Woltman said. "He's been working hard in the weight room and as you can see it's paid off. He hit that one a mile."
It puts Wheaton North (15-7) back in the Elite Eight of the unofficial summer state tournament for the second straight year, after reaching the semifinals last year.
The Falcons will play St. Laurence at 12:30 p.m. Monday at Naperville's North Central College in the double-elimination tournament.
"It means a lot, it's really special," said Woltman, like Nelson part of last year's group. "We were very fortunate to do it last year, and this year it feels the same."
The Falcons did so by surviving a back-and-forth affair with now former DVC rival Neuqua.
Wheaton North jumped out to a 5-0 lead, Woltman tagging a two-run double in the fourth to open up what appeared a comfortable margin.
Neuqua, though, sent 11 batters to the plate in a seven-run bottom of the fourth to surge ahead. But the Falcons promptly tied it 7-7 on Sam Hacker's two-out, two-run homer in the fifth.
"That was huge," Nelson said. "It was a crazy game, same as last year in this game."
Nelson singled and scored on a wild pitch to put Wheaton North back ahead in the sixth, but Neuqua tied it again in the bottom half.
Woltman, Nelson and Jacob Schauer each had three hits and Hacker and Joe Klein also reached base three times.
The Falcons scored a staggering 45 runs over four regional games.
"We swung the bats well this week," Falcons coach Dan Schoessling said.
Nobody did so better than Nelson.
"He's a guy that is a clutch hitter, has a really good approach at the plate, waits for his pitch and takes advantage," Schoessling said. "If he gets a pitch in the zone he's not going to get cheated. That [homer] went a long way."
Two Falcons' errors in the bottom of the eighth drew Neuqua to within 12-10. But with runners at second and third, Woltman threw a runner out trying to take third on a pitch in the dirt.
"I knew the runner was at second was being pretty aggressive with his secondary lead," Woltman said, "so i was preparing for him to go. Just trying to do my job to help the team win."