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Naperville Central catcher Luke Daley tags out Brendan Daley of Neuqua Valley at home plate. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Matt Butler was well aware that Naperville Central’s Bobby McMillen was standing in the on-deck circle.
With Neuqua Valley clinging to a 4-2 lead, the bases loaded, and two outs, Butler was able to get Jason Wegner to hit a high chopper back to him to seal the victory in Saturday’s Class 4A Metea Valley Regional championship game.
Butler had relieved Tyler Bromer, who threw six innings, giving up a pair of runs and five hits.
“I’ve played against [Wegner] forever and I just wanted to get ahead of him,” Butler said. “I was able to get ahead and then get him to go after a curveball. He got a bad swing on it and bounced it up. I just took my time and made my throw to first.”
Neuqua Valley (18-16-2) advances to Wednesday’s Class 4A Oswego Sectional semifinal where it will face Plainfield North.
Naperville Central (22-13) jumped on Bromer in the first inning with two runs. Kevin Clifford and Brendon Daley both delivered run-scoring doubles to get the Redhawks off to a strong start.
“Just like the other day, we got off to a little bit of a slow start and started behind, but just kept competing,” Neuqua catcher Alex Wolanski said. “Bromer kept us in the whole game. It’s the best I’ve seen him pitch all year.”
Wolanski forced a 2-2 tie in the top of the second with a long home run down the left-field line off of Brett Kirk.
The Wildcats rallied in the third, but saw Nick Hilgemann thrown out at the plate on Tyler Tesmond’s double. It didn’t thwart their rally, though, as Butler followed with a single to bring home Tesmond for a 3-2 lead.
“After that big play at the plate, I was just hoping to push at least one run across,” Butler said. “I looked bad on the first pitch curveball, so I thought it might come again, and it did. I just poked it to right for the hit.”
The Wildcats added an insurance run in the top of the fourth with two outs as Josh Piotrowski singled through the hole between third base and shortstop.
Naperville Central’s bats were silenced after the first. The Redhawks only had a single and a walk from the second inning through the sixth, but did put a scare into the Wildcats in the seventh.
Kevin Clifford and Mack Heatherly singled to open the inning and moved up a base on Michael Kolzow’s sacrifice bunt. Dan Dolehide walked on a borderline full-count pitch to load the bases, but Butler got Jack Alberts to pop out before inducing the game-ending grounder from Wegner.
“We didn’t make Bromer uncomfortable on the mound,” Naperville Central coach Mike Stock said. “He did what he wanted too often, and all season long, we’ve made pitchers uncomfortable. We didn’t do it and then when they pulled him, Butler did a nice job.”