SERENA — Somonauk coach Troy Felton says that catcher Andrew Johnson has been a thorn in his side this season, in the fact that the senior has wanted to trade in the mask and shin guards for some time to toe the rubber.
Johnson finally got his chance in Friday afternoon's Little Ten Conference game against host Serena, and he made the most of it by tossing 4 1/3 scoreless relief innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six to pick up the victory in the Bobcats' 6-0 triumph over the Huskers. Steven Kenyon recorded the final five outs on the hill — including working out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth — to earn the save.
"Andrew has been on me all season to put him on that mound. We haven't really run into a situation where I had to yet, but we decided to run him out there," said Felton, whose starter, Nolan Wegener, was replaced after working the first inning. "He said to me, 'Coach, I can do it,' and he was right.
"I thought he did a really nice job, he was hitting his spots and kept them off-balance. He got a little bit deep in his pitch count in his first outing and then all of a sudden started to get a little wild. It was nice to have a guy like Andrew get us through a long stretch that was somewhat unexpected today. Steven came on and did a great job of finishing things off."
Serena senior lefty Trace Berggren suffered the loss after surrendering all six runs (two earned) on 10 hits while striking out 10 and walking just one, that an intentional pass, in 6 2/3. The Huskers on the day committed six miscues in the field and were only able to post five total hits — two coming off the bat of Preston Duffy — and left 11 runners on base.
"I though Trace pitched OK only giving up a couple of earned runs, and he battled to the end," said Serena coach Chad Baker. "You can't win ballgames against a good team when you are giving them four unearned runs and you're giving them extra outs in four of the seven innings.
"Couple that with us not hitting the baseball like we had been ... it's not a winning combination."
Somonauk (10-0-1, 7-0) took a 1-0 lead in the second when Johnson's single scored Wegener, who had lined a leadoff double to left. Serena (5-3, 4-2) had Greg Breese and Connor Baker reach on back-to-back, one-out infield singles in the third, but Johnson worked out of trouble, getting a groundout and flyout to keep his club on top.
"I feel we had a really good chance there in the third inning with a couple of guys on and our No. 3 and No. 4 guys coming up," Coach Baker said. "I was hoping we could get the game tied or have a nice inning there to get us going. Trace hit the ball hard but right to the shortstop, and Preston just got under one."
The Bobcats continued to add runs over then final four frames.
In the fourth, Brady Kreiter singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Johnson. In the fifth, Isaiah Nunez's bunt single started things before back-to-back errors allowed him to touch home. In the sixth, two more Huskers errors and RBI basehits by Sam Brooks and Clayton Morris made it 5-0. Then in the seventh, Johnson lined a single, and courtesy runner Jake Willette scored from first on a double to the left-center field fence by Kenyon.
"We have been talking about going to the plate with an approach, but also making adjustments as the at-bat progresses," said Felton. "I was listening to (Cubs manager) Joe Maddon talking about Javier Baez from last year to this year and how he still takes the big swing, but then swings for contact. I thought the guys did a good job of taking that mindset today.
"Putting the ball in play and forcing Serena make the plays proved very beneficial for us, and we did a good job of capitalizing when we had to."
Somonauk 6, Serena 0
SOMONAUK (6) — Brooks 3b/c/lf 4-0-2-1, Morris cf 3-0-1-1, Kreiter ss 3-1-1-0, Wegener p/3b 4-1-1-0, A. Johnson c/p 3-0-2-2, Willette cr 0-1-0-0, Kenyon 1b/p 4-1-2-1, Roberts lf/1b 4-0-0-0, Nunez dh 4-1-1-0, Franzone 2b 0-0-0-0, Westbrook rf 2-1-0-0. Totals 31-6-10-5.
SERENA (0) — Breese 3b/2b 4-0-1-0, Baker ss 4-0-1-0, Berggren p/1b 3-0-1-0, McNelis cr 0-0-0-0, Duffy c 3-0-2-0, Stafford 1b/3b 3-0-0-0, Franzen lf 2-0-0-0, Kuhn 2b/cf 2-0-0-0, Rogers rf 2-0-0-0, Bra. Faivre cf 3-0-0-0, McVey p 0-0-0-0. Totals 26-0-5-0.
Somonauk (10-0-1, 7-0) 010 112 1 — 6 10 0
Serena (5-3, 4-2) 000 000 0 — 0 5 6
LOB — Somonauk 8, Serena 11. 2B — Wegener, Kenyon. SB — Morris, Willette, Stafford. CS — Brooks. SAC — Morris, Westbrook. SF — A. Johnson. HBP — Franzen (by A. Johnson), Kuhn (by A. Johnson), Duffy (by Kenyon).
Somonauk ip r er h bb k
Wegener 1.0 0 0 1 1 2
A. Johnson (W) 4.1 0 0 3 2 6
Kenyon (S) 1.2 0 0 1 0 2
Berggren (L) 6.2 6 2 10 1 10
McVey 0.1 0 0 0 0 0