He wears the No. 2 on the back of his jersey. He batted in the No. 2 slot in the lineup for the first time in Lincoln-Way North’s 10-0 five-inning baseball victory over Stagg on Thursday in Frankfort.
And he emerged as the No. 1 pest for the Chargers.
Lincoln-Way North junior right fielder Alex Neufeld connected for three hits and drove in three runs as the Phoenix offense continued to light up the scoreboard. He also walked, scored three runs and was part of a successful delayed double-steal play that ended with teammate Corey Krupske sliding in under the tag at home plate.
Neufeld is listed at 5-6 and 130 on the Lincoln-Way North roster. He is just now beginning to put on a little muscle and grow into his body. He has some speed and some big-game genes in his blood.
His older brother A.J. Neufeld was a standout catcher for the Phoenix and a big stick who went on to play in the collegiate ranks at Roosevelt University. He was known for driving in big runs in big situations. And for casting a big shadow behind the plate.
“Yeah, his brother is A.J.,” Lincoln-Way North coach Joe Skarbek said of Alex Neufeld’s family connection. “You couldn’t have a more different body type. But he’s got a quick bat and is aggressive and likes to hit. He does a nice job.
“I’m glad I had him in the two-spot today. That was a new spot for him. He has been batting down in the order. But we said, ‘Let’s give him a shot there.’ And it worked out.”
Neufeld was in the middle of every big inning for the Phoenix. His two-run single was the highlight of a four-run uprising in the bottom of the second. And his one-out single in the bottom of the fifth scored Tyler Gaynor to end the ballgame.
“Oh, yeah, conference wins are great wins any time you can get them,” Alex Neufeld said. “I had my boys backing me, and I was just having a day. That’s what you’ve got to do.”
The victory for Lincoln-Way North pushed the Phoenix’s record to 14-4 overall and 4-0 in the Southwest Suburban Red Conference. After a slow start on offense, they’ve picked up the pace of late and looked more and more like the team that thundered its way back from a first-round loss en route to winning the IBCA summer state tournament.
Neufeld was part of that sizzling run, too.
“It was a great experience winning state,” he said. “And it definitely does carry over because everyone wants to get us because we’re state champions. Everyone is throwing their No. 1 at us. It makes you better.”
Neufeld is one of three cogs in a Lincoln-Way North outfield that runs down almost every ball hit in the air. He teams with Krupske in center field and Mike Irace in left. The Phoenix defense is equally solid in the infield with Reed Hero (first base), Gaynor (second), Josh Handzik (shortstop), Jake Troike (third base) and Ryan Pellack (catcher) making plays.
“The defense has been sparkling all year long,” Skarbek said. “Josh Handzik is one of the best shortstops I’ve ever had at Lincoln-Way in 15 years. Reed Hero is starting to really play some nice first base—that’s a new position for him. And the outfield is so solid.
“Jack Troike has been a varsity player—I guess it’s only two years. But because he played a lot summer ball for us his sophomore year, it seems like he’s been with us for three years. He’s a nice player.”
Lincoln-Way North’s pitching staff will add an ace when Joe Cairo returns from an injury. He is expected to take the mound for the first time this season at some point this weekend. Transfer Jake McCabe (3-1) has helped pick up the slack in his absence.
McCabe fired a two-hitter against Stagg.
“He threw a lot of strikes,” Neufeld said. “He pitched a good game.”