Highland Park ace slices through rival’s lineup as Giants stay alive in conference race
Facing a mostly right-handed lineup, Highland Park’s Luke Weber had to adjust his pitch mix.
Weber also worked through a calf cramp early that dragged down his velocity a bit. He was also hit with a pitch while at bat.
But nothing could stop the flame-throwing right-hander on Thursday, May 11, when Weber spun a two-hit, 12-strikeout gem in the host Giants’ 9-0 victory against intradistrict rival Deerfield.
“It feels really good, especially because it’s our rivalry,” Weber said of the victory. “We always play them twice and we just lost to them 8-2 (on Tuesday, May 9), so our whole team was fired up. We wanted to even up the series.”
For much of the game, Weber, a junior verbally committed to the University of Illinois, used his fastball to get ahead in the count. He used his slider to induce weak contact or no contact from the Warriors.
When Deerfield’s bats did make contact, the Giants defense was up to the task, playing an error-less contest that included a sliding catch from right fielder Sam Wolfe, four cleanly fielded ground balls by second baseman Charlie Cohen and a caught stealing from catcher Griffin Kelly.
The offense stepped up too. Wolfe’s first-inning two-run double set the tone. And it was more than enough.
“It gives me some confidence, because now I know I have a couple runs to work with,” Weber said. “Obviously, I don’t want to let anyone get on base or score, but if it happens, hopefully we can still have the lead. It’s a lot better throwing when you have a 2-0 lead than 0-0.”
The Giants picked up another run in the second, when Cohen singled, stole a base and scored on an error.
With Weber doing his thing on the mound, Highland Park put the game away in the fifth, when it sent 10 batters to the plate, scoring five runs on three hits, two walks and two hit batters. Darren Gussis and Cohen each recorded two-run singles.
Weber saved his best for last, striking out six Warriors in the final two innings to slam the door on the Warriors.
The win allows Highland Park to keep pace with Deerfield and Maine West in the race for the Central Suburban League’s North Division. Casey Pieper and David Finfer walked three times apiece for the Giants. Finfer added a single, and Pieper scored three times.
The Giants have two more league games remaining, hosting Vernon Hills on Monday, May 15, and visiting the Cougars on Wednesday, May 17.
Weber said it’s been an up-and-down season but he believes the Giants have a run in them.
“There is some disappointment with how our season has gone because we lost some games to teams we know we should beat,” he said. “But I think right now we are picking it up, getting hot with the bats, which we weren’t early in the season. And that’s good with us starting the playoffs in about two weeks.”
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319