WESTERN SPRINGS – A little bruised and a bit worse for the wear, Justin Williams came through when it mattered most.
The Lyons Township senior lifted a short fly ball to left field for a sacrifice that plated Wyatt Tawse with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 2-1 win against Hinsdale Central April 27.
"With one out, bases loaded I was just trying to do the job," Williams said. "Our defense and pitcher worked to get us in that situation, and it was nice to capitalize and get the win."
Williams' official line wasn't impressive – 0 for 1 with an RBI and hit by pitches twice – but he came through in the clutch. With Central junior Cannon Whitby pitching in relief in the seventh, Williams worked the count in his favor before plating the winning run.
"We try to do a good job of whoever is up first against a new pitcher coming back and giving us the rundown," Williams said. "I had a couple opportunities to time him up during warmups and I knew he was coming with mostly fastballs so I sat on that."
Though the LT (15-4 overall, 9-3 West Suburban Silver) offense has been absent at times, the pitching and defense has done the job all season. The Lions have surrendered three runs or less in 14 of their wins, and Brendan Pugliese delivered the latest gem on the mound.
The senior gave up two hits and a walk in the first inning as the Red Devils (10-5, 5-2) scored their lone run. Pugliese allowed just four base runners the rest of the game on three hits and a hit batter.
"I think it started with our presence on the mound in Brendan Pugliese," LT head coach Kevin Diete said. "We've been working him up through the ranks, I guess you could say, in terms of his status as a pitcher. He started a couple JV games for us early and he's worked his way into the lineup as a conference pitcher.
"I'm extremely proud of him and what he's done, both in terms of the offseason and into this season."
Not to be outdone was Hinsdale Central sophomore Michael Gurka, who gave up just two hits in his varsity debut.
"He has a great presence on the mound," Hinsdale Central head coach Jason Ziemer said. "He's zoned in and he's focused and he didn't back down. He hit a few guys, but other than that his command was good.
"He pitched like a senior. He didn't get rattled and he didn't want to come out of the game."
Three walks and five hit batters made for some extra work, but Gurka got himself out of nearly every jam he faced, including with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth.
Tawse's groundout in the bottom of the fifth inning scored Scott Garrow with LT's first run. After loading the bases in the sixth the Lions dug deep to earn the win that locked up a series win against the Red Devils.
LT is in the thick of the hunt for the WSS title with series against York (May 8, 9 and 11) and Downers Grove North (May 15, 16 and 18) remaining.
"It's great," Williams said of taking the series against the rival Red Devils. "It will build momentum going into [May] and the rest of conference. We're sitting well right now in conference, so we hope to run with that and just keep building on this."