Baseball: Naperville National edges Warren Park, moves one step closer to state title

After his team cruised through district and sectional play, Naperville National Little League manager Jeff Dalton warned his players that it wasn’t always going to be so easy.

“I told them they’d have to overcome some hardships and get past some bumps in the road,” he said. “I told them just to keep playing. I was hoping maybe they’d buy in.”

They did Monday night. After Warren Park Little League scored twice in the top of the seventh to go up 6-4, Naperville National responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning as Ben Wright’s long, two-run, walk-off single gave his team a 7-6 victory in winner’s bracket play at the Little League Intermediate Division State Tournament at Alsip Little League’s Garetto Field.

Naperville National, which opened Sunday with a 5-3 win over Evergreen Park, is the tournament’s only remaining undefeated team and will have two chances to pick up one win and clinch the state title. The first opportunity will come at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s Warren Park-Evergreen Park game.

Warren Park took the 6-4 lead on Jalen Kobayashi’s two-out, two-strike single up the middle in the top of the seventh. It was a heartbreaker for Naperville, but Dalton thought his team had some fight left in it.

“We had the top of the order coming up and I just kept shouting ‘Two to tie, three to win,’” he said.

Michael Bruebach started the Naperville rally with a double. Timmy Dalton followed with a base hit and Cliff Vickers’ single cut the deficit to 6-5. Runners moved up to second and third on the play.

After an intentional walk to Garret Ricca, Wright ripped an 0-1 liner to deep center for the game-winner.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Wright said. “Just having fun. I just wanted to hit it. It was awesome.”

Vickers allowed three runs over four innings of relief to pick up the win.

Down 3-2 in the fifth, Naperville took the lead in the fifth as Bruebach doubled and scored on an error and Vickers produced a sacrifice fly.

Ricca and Ryan Rechtorik added RBI singles for Naperville.

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