PLAINFIELD – In a crucial Southwest Prairie Conference baseball battle Thursday, Minooka senior right-hander Jackson Shepherd fired a two-hitter with four strikeouts against host Plainfield Central.
In addition, senior center fielder Jon Butler highlighted a nine-run fifth inning explosion with a grand slam to help lead Minooka to a 12-1 victory in five innings.
“This was a great win for us in five innings,” Butler said. “ ‘Shep’ (Shepherd), was outstanding for us, and it was good for us to win this in five innings for him. With the new pitch-count rule, we saved him a number of pitches. I played well today, and this was really good for us after the loss to North (2-1 defeat on Tuesday).”
With the win, Shepherd improves to 6-0 on the season. The only negative about his start was by allowing an earned run in his five-inning performance, the minuscule 0.75 ERA he entered the game with was inflated to 0.84.
“Plainfield Central is a very good team, and I was able to really do my thing out there today,” Shepherd said. “My curve ball was working really nice for me, and I want to thank my teammates for the big 12 runs.”
After picking up an unearned run in the top of the first, Indian shortstop Hayden Lazcynski went deep with a man on to give Minooka (14-7, 6-3) a 3-0 lead in the second inning. It was the third home run of the season for Lazcynski, who also picked up a third RBI in the nine-run fifth on a bases-loaded hit by pitch.
“After having a tough outing against Plainfield North on Tuesday, it felt really nice to hit the home run and get the big win,” Lazcynski said. “Shep, pitched a great game and I hit the homer for our manager, Drew Turek.”
In the nine-run fifth, junior Cole Alstott had an RBI single and senior Grant Olson hammered a pinch-hit, two-run double for the Indians. Butler’s slam made the score 11-0 and a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by junior Zach Loras concluded the Indian onslaught. Senior Logan O’Brien tied a record held by many, when he singled and doubled in the same nine-run fifth inning.
“It felt good to get the two hits in the inning and have some fun today,” O’Brien said. “It was especially good to bounce back from the North game”
Plainfield Central (16-6, 6-4) scored its lone run in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice fly from senior Sean Eulitz to score junior Zach Hafner, who was hit by a pitch.
“We didn’t make a couple of plays early and then things just snowballed on us, in this one”, Plainfield Central head coach John Rosner said. “Minooka had a great approach to us at the plate and really hit the ball. We just have to bounce back on Monday, at Minooka.”
The two clubs will square-off again on Monday in Minooka at 4:30 p.m.
“It really helps to have this offensive explosion to give us confidence after the tough 2-1 loss to Plainfield North on Tuesday,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “Plainfield Central is a great ball club and we just caught them on an off-day and they will be ready for us on Monday.
“Jackson has emerged as a really good pitcher. He hasn’t had a lot of experience but worked hard over the summer and has been outstanding for us all season.”