For the majority of this baseball season, Northlake Christian has relied on solid pitching and good defense to win.
On Tuesday in a Class 2A regional playoff against Menard, the Wolverines got the pitching, but their defense was lackluster.
Not that it mattered.
Menard senior right-hander John Leglue pitched a strong game against the Wolverines. The 6-foot-6 pitcher threw a complete-game, two-hitter and led Menard to a 1-0 victory at Northlake Christian.
Leglue, who has committed to play on the offensive line for the Tulane football team, was nearly impossible to hit Tuesday. His fastball reached into the mid 80s (mph), but his curveball — and Northlake’s ability to adjust to it — was the difference.
Leglue pitched all seven innings and struck out five. He hit one batter and didn’t give up a walk. Only one runner reached third base against him in the playoff, and he only needed 78 pitches to dispose of Northlake Christian.
“I made sure to take it one game at a time,” he said. “We lost our pitching coach who died a couple years ago, and I lost a good friend this year. It’s been a tough year. I just try to give all the glory to them. Everyone was here with me. The defense was so solid. I have faith in throwing strikes and letting the defense make plays behind me.”
Leglue allowed only two singles — both to Northlake starting pitcher Kevin Mahl. Mahl had a clean single in the third inning, but a courtesy runner for him was picked off to end the inning. With two outs in the sixth, Mahl singled to center and reached third after the ball got past the Menard center fielder. A ground out ended that inning.
“Each batter is a different person,” Leglue said. “I wasn’t trying to throw a no-hitter. I was just trying to win the ballgame.”
That mindset worked for him and Menard (19-12.) They scored their only run in the first inning when Teddy Price reached on an error, and then was sacrificed to second by Zack Smith. Leglue reached on an error and Ryan Antoon scored Price on an infield single.
Mahl also was impressive, despite taking the loss. He pitched the first five innings, and the run he allowed was unearned. He gave up three hits, and hit one batter on 53 pitches. Mahl pitched on three days’ rest after a earning a bi-district playoff win over Loreauville on Friday.
Northlake Coach Chad Catalano took blame for the loss, saying he didn’t put his team in the best position to win against Menard. The Wolverines (18-15) committed five errors (four in the first two innings,) and had trouble adjusting to Leglue’s breaker.
“I threw a good bit (of curveballs) on the mound yesterday, but I take this loss,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We said from the first inning we needed to get a run on the board. (We didn’t get it) but we competed. I couldn’t ask for more. They left everything on the field.”