ST. CHARLES – St. Charles Post 342 pitcher Tony Landi stood on the mound at St. Charles North between innings Tuesday, holding a baseball and patiently waiting for catcher Ryan Thomas to arrive behind the plate to catch his warm-up tosses.
“Thanks for coming,” Landi said when Thomas finally emerged from the dugout.
“Huh?” Thomas responded, not initially getting the joke.
“Nice of you to join me out here,” Landi said.
It was around 90 degrees and the humidity made it feel much warmer, but Landi was a cool customer during Post 342’s 8-4 victory over Plainfield Post 1080 in the first round of the 11th District playoffs.
Of course, Landi could afford to be a little loose with his team giving him an 8-0 lead in the first three innings. Thomas was a big part of that offensive explosion, singling during a three-run first inning and hammering a double off Plainfield starter Tom Vashon (4-3) with the bases loaded in the second.
“He just elevated a fastball and I was just looking to put it in the air and drive in a run,” Thomas said. “Fortunately, it got over [the left fielder’s] head and went to the wall.”
Landi (5-1) did not allow a run over the first six innings. He ran into trouble with two outs in the seventh, giving up a two-run double to Johnathon Smith and walking in two runs.
“At the beginning, I was just kind of in the zone,” Landi said. “But then [the heat] started to get to me as the game wore on and that last inning I started to kind of leave my hips open and not throw as many strikes as I was before.”
Landi, who graduated from Geneva this year, yielded eight hits over 6⅔ innings. He walked five (four in the seventh) and struck out 10.
“My slider felt good because the humidity was making my fingers all sticky, so that was breaking harder than it usually does,” Landi said. “But I just depended on my fastball a lot.”
Ankur Shah got a ground ball to second with the bases loaded to end the seventh and went on to pitch a perfect eighth and ninth to earn the save.
“You’ve got to give credit to both the pitchers and the catcher, especially Ryan catching in that heat,” Post 342 coach Dale Wilderspin said. “Their pitcher, too. He pitched all nine innings.”
Vachon went the distance for Plainfield, throwing an astounding 177 pitches. Plainfield (5-13) had just 10 players show up for the game and coach Pat Sullivan was asked if he left Vachon in the game because he simply had no one else available.
“No,” Sullivan said. “He came to me and said, ‘I don’t care if I throw 200 pitches.’ It’s his last year. He’s not playing baseball after this. He’s the type of kid that just wants to play.”
Geneva product Anthony Bragg singled and drove in two runs with a first-inning triple for Post 342 (22-8), and Jack Dennis – who helped St. Charles North to a summer tournament win earlier in the day – contributed a single and an RBI double. Dan Berendt singled and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly for St. Charles, which will play again at 5:30 p.m. today at St. Charles North against either Wheaton or Hampshire.