St. Charles North and Larkin did their best imitations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as they split an Upstate Eight Conference doubleheader at North on Saturday.
In Game 1, the North Stars won 6-2 behind the stellar pitching of Ankur Shah and some solid defense. The Royals did themselves in with shoddy play in the field and wildness in the mound.
However, in Game 2, it was a complete role reversal as Larkin salvaged a split with flawless defense and a complete game from junior Brayhden Royse in a 4-1 win.
Royse gave up just three hits to earn his first win of the season.
“He is as mentally tough as they come,” Larkin coach Matt Esterino said. “He has been a bulldog for us all year and he gave us the kind of effort we needed.”
Royse struggled a little with his control early on, walking three batters and hitting another through the first three innings, but he was helped by his defense.
Chris “Snappy” Guzeman was able to help get Royse out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning when he doubled a runner off second base after a nice catch of a liner. Catcher Nick Morado also doubled off a runner in the third inning after a diving catch from behind home plate on a popped up sacrifice bunt.
Royse gave up his only run when he yielded back-to-back doubles with two outs in the third. After that he was lights out, holding the North Stars hitless the rest of the way while yielding just two walks.
“When the defense helps you out like that it gives you a lot of confidence,” Royse said. “Once the offense opened the door and got us the lead, I just kept grinding it out and chucking strikes. My slider and curveball were both working for me and I was able to spot my fastball.”
The Royals (7-14, 4-13) scored all four of their runs in the fifth. Tyler Kalusa and Dan Lenz led off with singles and Morado walked to load the bases. Rob Bond then drove in Kalusa and Lenz by smashing a single down the the third-base line to put the Royals on top 2-1. Morado and Bond later scored on a St. Charles error.
“We have been in a lot of close games and usually their are a couple things that do us in,” Esterino said. “We’ve really struggled avoiding the big inning and hitting with runners in scoring position. But in that second game we were able to turn those things around.”
The North Stars committed four errors in the second game after committing just one in the opener.
Guzeman went 4-for-8 on the day for the Royals. Kalusa had three hits and reached base five times.
Shah (4-2) went the distance in the North Stars’ Game 1 win. He scattered five hits while striking out five and walking just two. He threw 69 of his 99 pitches for strikes.
“I always try to do that,” Shah said. “It’s not always about how hard you throw its about being able to throw strikes and letting your defense get you outs.”
The North Stars (12-12, 8-8) were helped out by four hit batters. Three of those came came in the the third inning. The first loaded the bases and the next two forced a pair of runs in. Riley Coomes had an RBI single in the inning and later scored a groundball by Nick Drawant.
Ryan Thomas added an RBI double in the sixth for the North Stars.
“We did all the little things to win that first game,” North coach Todd Geinke said. “Then in Game 2 we did the complete opposite. When you have more than errors than hits your not going to win many of those games. We have struggled with consistency in the field all year. I’m at a loss for how we can from making every defensive play to not being able to make the routine plays in the next one.”