As his senior year at Neuqua Valley winds down, Scott Simpson could count on one hand the number of at-bats he’s received – five.
So you could certainly appreciate and understand his desire to contribute to an offensive onslaught that has been on constant display this spring.
With one swing on Tuesday against Glenbard North, Simpson got that chance.Simpson’s three-run homer helped highlight a nine-run second inning as Neuqua Valley cruised to a 11-1, five-inning DuPage Valley Conference victory in Naperville.
“I was just waiting for a good pitch because I was just battling up there,” Simpson said. “But I finally got one elevated.”
His three-run homer off Panthers’ starter Zach Bachara marked his first hit of the year in eight at-bats.
“It’s awesome, just being a part of the team,” Simpson said. “It’s great. I’m loving every second.”
The newly minted DVC champs wasted little time during a second-inning uprising that featured nine hits to go with those nine runs.
Neuqua Valley (30-1-1, 21-1) nearly homered for the cycle as Simpson’s three-run shot was followed later in the inning by a Noah Herdman grand slam.
One inning later, Justin Hicks’ two-run shot completed the scoring as the Wildcats took an 11-0 lead after three innings.
“That’s the epitome of Neuqua Valley baseball this season,” Hicks said of the team’s 15th game with at least 10 runs. “We put the ball in play. (Tuesday), the wind was helping us. But we’re always hitting the ball hard and (Tuesday) can definitely (attest) to that.”
Four Wildcats recorded two hits while eight players had at least one hit as they pounded out 12 hits.
Senior right-hander Connor Donlon was the beneficiary of the run support as he picked up his first victory of the season.
Donlon was throwing for the first time since April 12 and went four innings in giving up one run on three hits.
“He really showed me something (Tuesday),” Neuqua Valley coach Robin Renner said of Donlon. “Hasn’t pitched for weeks and weeks and weeks and I’ll tell him (Monday) he’s going to get the start. He said, ‘I’m ready’ and he certainly was. He did an amazing job. He picked up right where everybody else left off.”
Herdman’s grand slam was his second in the Wildcats’ last three games to go with his one Saturday at Wheaton North.
On the year, Herdman is hitting .434 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs – all team highs.
A sixth 30-win season in program history in tow, Neuqua Valley has three games left to improve on the best regular season in program history.
Renner – in place for all of it since the program began – is finding it hard to find words to describe what’s transpired this spring.
“I’ve been around high school baseball for many years and this season just keeps getting stranger and stranger,” he said. “I can’t explain it. I’m not going to try to explain it. We’re just going to try to enjoy it as long as it goes and who knows how long that will be. But we’ll enjoy it as ling as it goes. That’s for sure.”