Baseball: Coutre knocks in game-winner as Libertyville edges Prospect in regional semifinal
Nick Coutre, seen here during the regular season, came up with the game-winning hit in Thursday's regional semifinal. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 29, 2012 11:13PM
Libertyville senior leadoff hitter Nick Coutre found himself in a situation many young kids dream.
With the bases loaded and two outs — and the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning — Coutre stepped into the batter’s box and then looped a first-pitch fastball into shallow left field, for a game-winning, walk-off single in Thursday’s Class 4A regional semifinal game against Prospect at Palatine High School.
Up until that point, he’d gone 0-for-4, which he said made him even more eager and aggressive than usual at the plate.
“I was trying to get the run home ... I had a brutal day other than that,” Coutre, who’s signed to play next season at Division-I Villanova University, said. “So I was just trying to put it in play. It wasn’t a very good pitch to swing at, actually. It was down-and-in. Coach (Jim Schurr) told me to look for my pitch, I did, and it worked out.”
Libertyville’s 6-5 victory puts them in the regional title game against hsot Palatine on Saturday at 10 a.m.
But before Coutre’s game-winning hit, fifth-seeded Libertyville’s fate seemed far from a sure thing. This, despite the fact the Wildcats jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, off of 12th-seeded Prospect’s starting pitcher and Illinois State recruit Jack Landwehr.
Anthony Mack’s solo homer to right-center two batters into the game put the Wildcats (24-11 overall) on the board first, and a two-out, two RBI single by junior Justin Guarnaccio staked Libertyville starter Kyle Cibrario to an early three-run cushion — which he held until the top of the fourth.
That’s when Prospect leadoff hitter Shane Joyce blasted a 2-2 Cibrario offering over the left-center field fence, for a wind-aided three-run homer, tying the game. The Knights padded their lead in the top of the fifth, thanks to a pair of unearned runs and two separate RBI singles. The result was a 5-3 Prospect advantage, and Cibrario (5 innings, 5 runs, 4 hits, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts) being pulled after the inning ended.
The Wildcats fired back in the bottom of the sixth. Pinch-hitter Kevin Calamari’s RBI single scored Guarnaccio, who led off the inning with a walk against Prospect sophomore reliever Jordan Fedro. Two batters later, Mack belted a two-out RBI double to right-center that tied things at 5-5.
In the top of the seventh, Prospect threatened to take the lead when they had runners on second and third with one out. However, Libertyville reliever Nate Cote struck out No. 8 hitter Tom Flahaven, then got pinch-hitter Jackson Wrede to ground out to second. On the play, Wildcats’ first baseman Darwin Townsend made a lunging scoop on a low throw that saved a pair of runs from scoring.
“Honestly, I was just trying to make sure I stayed in front of the ball,” Townsend said. “And despite the low throw, give (second baseman) Kevin McQuillen a ton of credit for staying in front of that grounder to begin with and keeping it in the infield.”
After the game, Schurr was asked if he felt his Libertyville squad had just dodged a bullet.
“Honestly, I think it’s the exact opposite,” Schurr said. “I think we loaded our own gun with some of the mistakes we made and errors we had out there. But I told our guys they deserve a lot of credit, because it took a lot of resilience to come back the way we did late in the game.”