Baseball: Mundelein muscles up, beats Libertyville in key NSC Lake contest
Libertyville's Evan Skoug (11) holds up the ball as Mundelein's Jordan Wiegold (2) scrambles for the plate after avoiding a tag at home during their baseball game on Tuesday, May 1st. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 8, 2012 11:01AM
Tuesday’s North Suburban Conference Lake Division showdown for first place between Mundelein and Libertyville was supposed to be a battle between two of Lake County’s top baseball teams.
Instead, it turned into a game that got out of hand quickly, as the visiting Mustangs scored early and often, en route to an easy 15-3, five-inning victory.
Mundelein (21-3 overall, 7-0 NSC Lake) now holds a two-game edge over Libertyville (14-8, 5-2) in the division, heading into Wednesday’s rematch between the two clubs.
“It was obvious when we left today — and even during school I saw a lot of the boys — that we were ready for this one,” Mundelein coach Todd Parola said.
Mundelein leadoff hitter Thomas Gandolfi set the tone immediately when he slapped a line drive single to right field, during an eight-pitch at-bat to open the game. Two batters later, senior second baseman Chris Maranto ripped a one-out, line-drive two-run homer just over the 330-foot sign in right-center off Libertyville starter Kyle Cibrario to give the Mustangs a quick 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats answered by taking advantage of a pair of Mustang errors, with an unearned run in the bottom of the first, to make it a 2-1 game. It was as close as they would get the rest of the evening.
That’s because in the top of the second, Mundelein batted around, sending 10 hitters to the plate. They scored seven more times, making it 9-1, capped by Ryan Dolan’s two-run homer to right. Clean-up hitter Torr Randau (3-for-4), meanwhile, had a monster game at the plate, including a bases-clearing double with the bags packed in the same inning. He finished with a career-high six RBI.
“I’ve been working on my swing for the past two weeks ... I was slowing up a little bit,” Randau said. “Our hitting coaches had me working on keeping my shoulders level, and getting good swings at good pitches. And I was able to do that today.”
The run support was more than enough for Mustangs’ lefty starting pitcher Jared Mandel, who allowed an earned run on five hits. He struck out five in five innings of work for the victory.
“Getting ahead of hitters with the fastball was definitely the key for me today,” Mandel said. “My offspeed stuff really wasn’t working today. They got some key hits off those (offspeed) pitches, but at least by getting ahead with my fastball, I was able to mix some things up out there and work around it.”
Mundelein extended its lead again in the third, thanks to a first-pitch towering solo homer to left by Bryan Wiener and a two-out two RBI single by Randau. That made it 12-1.
Libertyville first baseman Darwin Townsend’s solo homer to right, in the bottom of the fourth, made it 12-2. Mundelein responded with a pair of walks — and three singles — to increase its lead to 15-2, in the top of the fifth. The Mustangs’ No. 9 hitter, Mitchell Schulewicz (2-for-2, RBI, walk, three runs scored, stolen base), even got in on the action.
“Kyle (Cibrario) has pitched unbelievably well all year long,” Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said. “He just didn’t have it today.”
The Wildcats finished the scoring on a scary play with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Catcher Evan Skoug’s long fly ball barely cleared the 280-foot sign just inside the right field foul pole — resulting in the fifth homer of the game. However, Mundelein right-fielder Connor O’Donoghue, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement, leaped over the fence in a courageous but unsuccessful effort to rob Skoug.
Instead, O’Donoghue struck his head on the concrete ground on the opposite side of the fence, and he was taken from the field in an ambulance for precautionary reasons. He was conscious, and able to speak and move his legs and arms after the incident occurred. It was about the only thing that put a damper on Mundelein’s convincing performance.
According to Mundelein assistant coach Jeff Sweno, O’Donoghue was released from the hospital late Tuesday night, and a concussion or any likelihood of other serious injuries were ruled out.
Libertyville, meanwhile, can keep itself in the NSC Lake race by winning at Mundelein Wednesday (4:30 p.m.). With a loss, they would be all but mathematically out of the running, since they would then need to make up not three, but four games in the loss column (due to tie-breaking rules), with just four division games remaining.
“I just told my guys that I should never have this much stuff written down to talk about after a five-inning game,” Schurr said. “Hopefully we can rebound tomorrow and keep ourselves in the race.”