Pitching a complete game in high school baseball is even more rare than it used to be.
When the IHSA instituted a pitch-count rule a few years ago in an effort to protect the health of pitchers, coaches had to change the way they use their pitchers in order to make sure they stay under the 105-pitch maximum per game.
Crunch the numbers and 105 pitches is just 15 pitches per inning in a 7-inning high school game. Not a large margin for error.
Only the super efficient can make it the distance, and that’s what Mundelein pitcher Jonathan Hanscom was on Wednesday. Super efficient.
Hanscom threw 93 pitches over seven full innings to lead Mundelein to a 4-1 victory over visiting Lake Zurich in North Suburban Conference action.
Mundelein improves to 21-7 overall and 15-5 in the conference, good for second place behind Libertyville. Lake Zurich, meanwhile, drops to 10-15 overall and 9-11 in the NSC.
“I think this was my first complete game this season,” said Hanscom, Mundelein’s No. 2 pitcher. “I was really able to hit my spots today and my off-speed was on, so they couldn’t get to the ball. And I loved the way my team was able to get to the ball. They were great behind me today.”
And Hanscom was determined to keep that good chemistry going from start to finish. At the end of the sixth inning, when Mundelein broke open a scoreless game with 4 big runs, Hanscom was just itching to head back out to the mound.
“I was in the dugout waiting to go back in,” said Hanscom, whose pitching record moves to 5-2 overall. “I didn’t want to come out at all. It meant a lot to me to finish my game.” Mundelein coach Randy Lerner had no thoughts about subbing out Hanscom, who had thrown just 71 pitches through six full innings. It also eased Lerner’s mind to know that Hanscom was going to be able to work with a cushion in the top of the seventh.
The Mustangs took a 4-0 lead into the top of the seventh and Lake Zurich wound up scoring its only run off a wild pitch by Hanscom with one out in the top of the seventh.
“Johnny was phenomenal,” Lerner said. “He’s a competitor. He battles every game. We knew we would get that from him. He kept the ball around the zone, stayed down and had great command of his changeup. To be able to keep hitters off-balance like that is a great recipe for success.”
Mundelein’s recipe for offensive success was a binge in the sixth inning, led by a big 2-run single by Austin Greco. Ben Holly also had a double in the inning.
Before that, Mundelein had managed just 2 hits off of Lake Zurich starter Noah DeLuga.
“It was a key situation and we needed a big hit and I just wanted to help my team out,” Greco said. “After every inning, we were just trying to hype each other up, trying to get the best out of each other and then we had a big inning.”
It was the second straight day in which Mundelein had a big inning against Lake Zurich to win the game.
Mundelein scored 3 runs in the top of the seventh to pull away in Tuesday’s game between the two teams.
“We’ve talked about how once we get to the regional that we’re going to be in games like that, everyone is going to be playing good baseball,” Lerner said. “So we have to make sure that early in games we get going and that we’re ready to go. Their pitcher today (DeLuga) did a great job early on against us, not letting us get guys on base, not letting us score.”
DeLuga drops to 3-2 on the mound but was solid until the sixth inning got away from him a bit. He was pulled but he was going to be pulled anyway since he had maxed out the pitch count.
“Noah’s pitch count was looming and I don’t think they hit him hard, they just hit him in the right spots,” Lake Zurich coach Rick Erickson said. “Noah is a steel trap mentally. This was probably one of his least efficient games pitching and it was still an absolute gem against a phenomenal team. He fell behind hitters, he got into a lot of 3-0 counts, but the fact that he didn’t walk anybody and still battled into the sixth against a great team just shows how mentally tough the kid is and how much he can dominate when he’s on and even when he’s not on his best stuff. He’s that good of a pitcher.”
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