By: Ryan Zimmerman
Midlothian, Ill. – The MCL Minutemen rode two late-inning comebacks to strike fear in the hearts of the DuPage County Hounds, but the magic ran out in the end as the visitors pulled out a 5-4 win.
“Our fight towards the end was very good,” manager Jack Murphy said. “At that point we just got back to our game at the plate and took what the other pitchers were giving to us. Early on, we just weren’t looking like ourselves, I’m really happy about the way we turned things around. Unfortunately, it just didn’t result in a win.”
Making his first start of the 2020 season, Nic Vitiritti (Carthage College/Lansing, Ill.) turned in a quality start. Outside of a three-run second, Vitiritti did not give up a run in his six innings on the hill, giving up seven hits while striking out four. In catching a DuPage County runner napping at first base in the first inning, he recorded the first successful pickoff in Minutemen history.
“When the Hounds got to him in the second inning it lit a fire under him,” Murphy said. “Nic really took off from there. At that point he got locked in and started attacking hitters. Those last four innings were as good as I’ve seen out of anybody this year.”
Despite a near four-month layoff, Christian Peña (Eastern Illinois/Davenport, Iowa) wasted time shaking off any rust and found his groove at the plate. He led the way for the Minutemen offensively, going 3-for-4 with three line-drive singles and his second stolen base of the 2020 campaign.
“Christian was a guy coming in that I expected to be a big contributor,” Murphy said of his former player at Eastern Illinois. “All of his swings looked excellent. When you hear the ball sound as loud as it did coming off his barrel you know you’re seeing the ball well, and he was squaring them up left and right today.”
Following the DuPage County three-run outburst in the second inning, both offenses went cold until the Minutemen sparked their first rally in the sixth. With two outs, the lineup went to work playing their brand of baseball. Back-to-back hits from Mike Koszewski (Cincinnati/Oak Brook, Ill.) and Peña set up the red-hot bat of Ryan McCoy (Wabash Valley College/Frankfort, Ill.) His RBI double tallied the first Minutemen run and put two runners in scoring position for Tyler Struck (Murray State College/Orland Park, Ill.) to keep the line moving with a walk. Matthew Lelito (Kankakee CC/Merrillville, Ind.) brought the score level with a two-run double to straightaway center field, tying the game at three.
Norman Standish (South Suburban College/Highland, Ind.) and Patrick Rafferty (Dubuque/Orland Park, Ill.) took the mound in relief for the final three innings and kept the Minutemen in the game. The two combined for four strikeouts and allowed just one earned run.
“Those two threw well today,” Murphy said. “It was just bad luck that led to runs scoring. They didn’t get hit too hard, if not for some bad hops on the infield, they’re taking us to extra innings. I couldn’t ask for much more out of them.”
Though the Hounds reclaimed their advantage in the seventh inning, the Minutemen didn’t take too long to respond. With runners on the corners, a back-pick attempt allowed Koszewski to take home on a delayed steal of home, leveling the score at four runs apiece.
Unfortunately, however, the Minutemen magic ran out in the ninth. An error permitted the go-ahead run to score, and that was all DuPage County needed to close out a 5-4 win, their fifth of the year. The Minutemen return to Howie Minas field tomorrow at 1 p.m. as the Crestwood Panthers come to town. Be sure to tune in on the MCL Minutemen Broadcast Network via Facebook Live as Ryan Zimmerman and Jon Zaghloul have the call.
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