Updated: May 8, 2014 10:16PM
Before he came to bat in the top of the fourth inning, in Thursday’s key SouthWest Suburban Blue game, Sandburg’s Julian Gutierrez was advised “to take the ball the other way.”
Now the Eagles hope to take their conference fortunes the other way.
Gutierrez took the advice and hit a three-run home run over the left-field fence to break a tie and give the Eagles the lead for good. They went on to an 8-2 victory over host Lockport.
Sandburg (18-5, 9-0) is all alone in first place in the Blue at 9-0. The Porters fell to 12-12, 7-2.
“Lockport has a good team over there,” Gutierrez (2-for-4) said. “So we had to be greedy. We wanted to keep getting more hits.”
Sandburg had 10 hits off three pitchers. But none was bigger than Gutierrez’s blast in the fourth. With the score tied at 1 and two on with none out, he sent a 1-and-1 pitch into the jetstream that was blowing out to left. The ball carried for the three-run blast, his fifth round-tipper of the year.
“Before I batted, (assistant) coach (Chuck) Peters came up to me and told me to elevate the ball and to take it the other way,” Gutierrez said. “So I had to adjust. It felt good off the bat. The wind was howling that way, so once it got up there I figured it was gone.”
That was more than enough runs for Sandburg right-hander Sean Leland, who went the distance in improving to 5-1. He allowed two earned runs on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
“The support was great,” Leland said. “It (three-run lead) made me a little more relaxed, but you can’t go out there cocky. You have to still approach it like the score is 1-1.”
The Porters narrowed the gap to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Anthony Coco. Sandburg struck back for four runs in the fifth. Jim Roche scored on a wild pitch, No. 8 hitter Ben Kociper (3-for-4, 2 doubles) had a two-run double and Dan Santiago smacked an RBI single.
“Ben getting hits like that was awesome,” Gutierrez said. “There was no time to lay down.”
Sandburg took a 1-0 lead in the third when Jim Landgraf laced a two-out RBI double to left. Lockport tied it in the bottom of the inning when Mike Formella (2-for-4) looped an RBI single over first to score Tyler Hair (2-for-4).
“Overall, I’m still pleased,” Lockport coach Andy Satunas said. “We got seven hits off a Division I pitcher, and I’m happy with our growth at the plate. We just gave up too many (6) walks.”
Leland, who has signed to pitch at Louisville, would love to have a conference crown in his final high school season.
“It would be awesome,” he said of winning the Blue. “I haven’t won a conference title as an Eagle on any baseball level.”