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La Salle-Peru second baseman Noah Lamboley (No. 27) forces out Streator’s Andrew Szewczyk and attempts to turn a double play Thursday during the Cavaliers’ 5-3 victory in a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division game at Veterans Park in Peru. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
La Salle-Peru senior Kyle Jenkins has been feeling out of sorts at the plate lately, so he approached Cavalier coach Matt Glupczynski about it Wednesday.
“Him and I had a conversation (Wednesday) and he did not feel very comfortable at the plate. That’s what he told me,” Glupczynski said. “We kind of made a few jokes and we talked about a few things fundamental-wise.”
Whatever was said, it worked.
Jenkins went 2-for-4 and blasted a three-run homer in the third inning Thursday to help the Cavaliers to a 5-3 victory over Streator at Veterans Park in Peru in the second game of their Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division series.
“I was worried too much about just putting the ball in play and trying not to get out instead of going up there with the attitude that I’m going to get a base hit,” Jenkins said. “(Thursday), I was seeing the ball real well and I had a lot of confidence at the plate.”
Jenkins came to the plate with two outs in the third inning and the Cavs trailing 2-1.
He launched an offering from Streator’s Colton Olson over the center-field fence to score Bret Storm and Austin Smith and put L-P up 4-3.
“He started me off with, I think it was a changeup. I knew he was coming back with a fastball so I sat on it, and it was right down the middle and it hit the sweet spot,” Jenkins said. “I really did not think it was going that far, but it went over.
“It felt real good. At that point, I felt like I definitely got out of the little funk I was in.”
Jenkins also had a single in the fifth, a hard line out in the first and a hard grounder into a fielder’s choice in the sixth.
“It’s just he wasn’t hitting the ball with authority like he’s used to,” Glupczynski said about Jenkins’ slump. “He wasn’t in control of a lot of counts like he was today. He was behind in counts and always having to hit the pitcher’s pitch. He was out on his front foot a little bit with offspeed pitches.
“Today, he stood tall in the batter’s box and he really trusted his hands. He let the ball travel and get deep and trusted his hands were quick enough to throw the barrel of the bat.”
Jenkins wasn’t the only Cavalier to play well Thursday.
Smith pitched 4 1/3 innings to earn the win, while Ross Weber and Erik Gens combined to pitch 2 2/3 of scoreless relief.
Weber came on in the fifth with two runners on base. He allowed one runner to score but got out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts.
Gens pitched the final two innings to earn the save, allowing one hit while striking out three.
“We went first to Ross Weber in a very tough spot. He’s a sophomore who I’m very pleased with. I have a lot of confidence in him. We brought him in and he shut the door,” Glupczynski. “Then we brought in Erik Gens, and Gensy’s been very solid for us all year. … We have a lot of confidence to come in and shut the door, and once again he did it today.”
Max Strickland went 2-for-3 with an RBI single in the second, while Adam Happ had an RBI single in the sixth.
“I thought it was a great game,” Glupczynski said. “I’m very happy with the way we played all the way around. The bench was in the game the whole time. We got three great pitching performances. We got timely hitting. We got solid defense. It’s everything you need to win a ball game.”
The Cavs (11-2, 7-0 NIB 12 West) go to Streator today to wrap up the series.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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