By Mark Gregory
Coming off a fourth-place showing in the Class 4A state tournament last season, the Plainfield North baseball team returned a young lineup behind a couple of senior aces on the mound.
And while, they struggled at the beginning of the season, the Tigers battled back to advance to the sectional final, despite the loss of Arizona State-bound Brady Corrigan.
The season came to a close in a 5-3 loss to No. 1 seed Neuqua Valley in the Oswego Sectional final.
“We didn’t play our best. We made a couple mistakes in the field and we pitched from behind a lot and that really hurt us,” said North coach Dan Darlington. “It is hard to pitch when every count is 2-0, 3-1, but with all that being said – with the group we had and to get as far as we go with a shot in the sectional final without arguably our best pitcher, it is what it is. I am proud of our guys – especially our seniors. We started off a little shaky and we were not really playing well and they really did the things we asked them to do to get better and that is why we are here today.”
The seniors understood what it meant to get as far as the Tigers did this season.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” said senior Alex Steinbach. “Last year, we were senior dominated with only two or three juniors that played and this year, we are extremely young and a lot of these guys are coming back next year and the future is bright for years to come.”
That is because of those seniors, only a few were constants in the starting lineup for North – so while the Tigers (28-10) lost the game – the future was on display.
“We start six underclassmen and we threw three juniors today, so we are going to be OK,” Darlington said. “We have a good sophomore class. I have two good assistant coaches (Brandon Niewinski and Dan Arntzen) that have really got the kids buying into what we want them to do and when you add a little success, they really want to work for you and they have.”
Steinbach said working within the constraints of the North program is exactly what has bred the success.
“When you are playing under coach Darlington and coach Niewinski and the rest of the staff, you follow their rules no matter how strict they might be or no matter how many times they chew you out because they win ballgames,” he said. “They are proven winners.”