Mason LeBreck knew better than to open his mouth.
With the way the Neuqua Valley senior right-hander was operating Friday against Naperville Central, he didn’t want to jinx a good thing.
Nearly perfect for much of the morning, LeBreck’s two-hitter – coupled with another offensive onslaught – kept the good times rolling in a 9-0 DuPage Valley Conference victory.
“I was aware. I didn’t want to say anything, just because,” LeBreck said. “But I was aware and it was a good feeling to have and a good thought in the back of my mind.”
Good thoughts have been permeating all throughout the program right now as Neuqua Valley (12-0-1, 6-0) posted its fourth straight shutout.
“I don’t think it’s that important,” Wildcats’ junior catcher Jake Wenz said of the shutout streak. “I think it’s just us going out there and doing our thing – the pitchers, especially, going out there and trusting our fielders to make plays. They pitch to contact.”
The first 17 batters LeBreck saw went down in order.
Kyle Bennington’s bloop single to left with two outs in the sixth marked the first baserunner for Naperville Central (8-4, 4-3).
From there, a leadoff single from Cal Poly-bound shortstop Connor Gurnik was the only other blemish that featured eight strikeouts in a 90-pitch outing.
“He threw inside very well,” Wenz said of LeBreck. “When he got the hitters off the plate, then he’d come off-speed next pitch. Mason and I kind of worked that out. … That’s just what we did all game to keep them off-balance.”
Six days after facing TCU-bound Ryan Eiermann and striking out 12 times against him, Neuqua Valley took advantage of a second look.
A three-run first – highlighted by RBI doubles from Noah Herdman and Jack Rigoni – greeted Eiermann as the Wildcats seized momentum early.
A Herdman RBI single in the second and a five-run fifth allowed Neuqua Valley to keep the pressure on.
The first five hitters in the Wildcats’ lineup each had at least two hits – with Herdman’s three leading the way.
Herdman, who struck out three times against Eiermann last week, knocked in a pair of runs – along with Tim Schneider.
“I learned from my mistakes from Saturday – where I had a long swing, I was dropping my shoulder,” Herdman said. “I was trying to hit the ball far when Eiermann’s too good of a pitcher.
“He pitches, has great off-speed, has a great fastball. I shortened my swing up and I said, “I’m just going to hit singles. I’m going to drive runs in. I’m going to do my job.’”
Eiermann lasted 4 2/3 innings in giving up all nine runs while striking out just two.
Redhawks’ coach Mike Stock acknowledged it wasn’t ideal to have his ace go up against the same team twice in six days.
But the job Naperville Central struggled to do in the batter’s box jumped to the forefront of Stock’s takeaways from a third loss to Neuqua Valley.
“We wanted competitive at-bats and we didn’t have enough of them,” he said. “Our kids are working. The kids are believing. We came off a solid night (Thursday) night (against Metea Valley). But they put a big number on us early. If we could’ve had it to one, maybe this goes a different direction.”