After a pair of upsets, the No. 29 Masuk High baseball team finds itself just two wins away from a Class L State Tournament championship game appearance.
The Panthers went on the road and defeated No. 4 Woodstock Academy 5-0 in the first round on May 30, then toppled No. 13 Hillhouse 11-4 in the second round the next day.
With the wins, the Panthers earn a trip to No. 5 Brookfield, a South-West Conference foe, in the quarterfinals this Saturday, June 3, at 2 p.m. Masuk beat Brookfield 4-0 earlier this season. Brookfield went on to finish runner-up in the SWC.
Against Woodstock Academy, Justin Feinstein pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings allowing only 3 hits and striking out four. Connor Fulchino pitched 1 scoreless inning and Greg Nivison struck out the last batter of the game to complete the combined shutout for the Panthers.
Greg Nivison walked to lead off the game and then Colin Hope hit a single to left that bounced over the left fielder’s head allowing Nivison to score all the way from first and Hope to reach third. Drew Scalia then drove in Hope with an RBI single to right.
In the third, Carson Falcone hit an RBI double scoring Drew Scalia to extend the lead to 3-0.
In the top of the fourth, after three consecutive hits by Quinn McGuire, Nivison and Ryan Fedeli, Hope drove in Quinn McGuire on a ball that was dropped by the right fielder.
In the seventh, the Panthers scored their fifth run when Jackson Zylick walked with the bases loaded, scoring Fedeli.
Against Hillhouse, the Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a two out, two-run single by Falcone that scored Fedeli and Scalia. Hillhouse answered with four runs off of starting pitcher Nivison in the bottom of the third inning.
Masuk answered back in the top of the fourth when McGuire and Cody Benegoss both scored on wild pitches. In the top of the fifth, Zylick hit a two-out, two-RBI double to score Hope and Scalia to gain a 6-4 lead.
Masuk added five runs in the top of the sixth to extend the lead to 11-4. Scalia hit an RBI single, Falcone had a two-RBI single, Chris Welch had an RBI pinch-hit single, and Zylick tacked on an RBI groundout.
On the mound, Nivison held off a challenging Hillhouse lineup. Hillhouse came into the game with great momentum, having won the team’s first state playoff game in nearly 40 years just the day before. Nivison pitched six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out 10. Connor Fulchino finished the game for Masuk pitching a perfect 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Cody Benegoss and the Panthers will face Brookfield in the Class L quarterfinals.