South Elgin learned the lesson from its Class 4A state semifinal loss to St. Rita.
The Storm had missed several opportunities to pad an early lead Friday and fell 3-2, but they took advantage of most of their chances early and made them hold up Saturday for a 6-5 victory over Prairie Ridge to capture the third-place trophy at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.
“Our goal is to score every inning and we were accomplishing that up until the fourth,” South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. “We took care of mistakes, but we made some to let them back in the game, too.”
The third-place trophy for South Elgin was the first state trophy ever won by an Elgin School District U-46 baseball team.
“We made it quite interesting,” Kating said. “Nothing is ever boring with this group. I’m very proud of how they handled themselves and how they’ve gone through this.”
South Elgin (25-11-1) charged out to a 6-1 lead behind senior pitcher Tyler Brown (6-3), then held on as Prairie Ridge (24-18) — in a postseason full of comebacks — mounted two-run rallies in the sixth and seventh innings.
“Every time the game was close, we said, ‘Who’s been in more of these kinds of games than us? Nobody,’” Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro said. “We played in 11 extra-inning games, we played in 15 or 16 one-run games. I thought we were comfortable in those uncomfortable situations.”
Prairie Ridge made it very uncomfortable in the sixth when Brown, a right-hander, was knocked out after a five-inning, six-hit effort.
“The first few innings I felt pretty good, but going toward the last few I was pitching light-headed out there because I was dehydrated,” Brown said.
Brown walked four and struck out three. Kyle Buresch singled in a run off Brown in the sixth and then Connor Schneider doubled one in off reliever Max Keough, but Prairie Ridge had courtesy runner Alec Thune thrown out in a rundown after he rounded third too far.
Then South Elgin committed two infield errors, one scoring a run, and reliever Austin Sayer walked Nick Schmidt with the bases loaded for another run. But Sayer notched his second save, getting Chris Slack to ground one back to the mound for the final out.
“I feel confident in just about any of our pitchers going out there,” Kating said about Sayer, who hadn’t thrown since May 23. “But that was the
order we went in. Obviously, we made things a little harder on him.”
South Elgin made it easier on Brown with three runs in the first, two coming on an error and another by Dane Toppel on a wild pitch. The Storm added a run in both the second and third thanks to wildness from losing pitcher Benjamin Cilano (5-1).
Kyle Hays’ infield grounder turned one walk into a run and Justin Bryski’s sacrifice fly to left turned another walk into a run. In the fourth, reliever Vincenzo Clesceri yielded a decisive run on a single by Nate Brummel, a wild pitch and Nick Menken’s RBI single to make it 6-1.
Menken was a hero in the field as well. The junior center fielder made a diving catch for the first out in the second, and in the fifth, ended the inning by throwing out Schmidt trying to score from second on Marcus Sargeant’s single.
“I thought he was safe,” Pecoraro said. “It was close. You know what? I’m going to send him 10 out of 10 times. That kid made a hell of a throw.”