Geneva rising senior Ben Chally emerged as one of the area’s top players in the spring without much fanfare, but over the summer, he has added even more to his arsenal as he looks to build on that success.
Chally started pitching again this summer after taking a couple of years off on the mound, and he was able to contribute in a big way both with his bat and arm in Wednesday’s 9-7 win over rival Batavia to advance to the St. Charles Regional in summer play.
The Vikings will take on St. Charles East at 4 p.m. Thursday for the right to play in next week’s summer state tournament at Benedictine University in Lisle and North Central College in Naperville.
Chally went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored and threw three innings of relief, allowing one run, to earn the save.
“We’re hoping that he not only continues what he did in the spring, but improves on that,” Geneva coach Matt Hahn said. “You saw him on the mound. That’s going to be an added duty. He’s done really well this summer.”
Early on, both teams were hammering the ball around St. Charles East’s field.
Jake Piechota’s two-run double keyed a three-run first for Batavia. The Bulldogs were up 5-2 going into the fourth inning. That’s when the Vikings exploded. They sent 11 men to the plate in the fourth, scoring seven runs.
Geneva ended Batavia’s half of the third and fourth innings with double plays to completely steal the momentum.
“I thought the biggest play of the game was turning the double play (in the third), and then we put seven up,” Hahn said. “The game could have gotten out of hand the other way.”
In the fourth, Geneva had the bases loaded with one out when Brandon Evert laid down a suicide squeeze bunt. Instead of getting an out and limiting the damage, however, the play was mishandled and two runs scored. That opened the floodgates. Jason Croci and Chally cracked RBI singles and Jack Wassel hit a three-run double to give the Vikings a 9-6 lead.
“That was the difference in the whole game,” Batavia coach Matt Holm said. “I had just walked down and said, ‘They’re going to bunt right now.’ I know them enough to know they’re going to bunt it right now. We talk about never giving up a big inning, 21 outs in a game, get it done the fastest. We obviously didn’t do it that inning.”
From there, Ryan Olson entered in relief for Batavia and Chally for Geneva, and only one more run was scored the rest of the game. Chally was coming off his longest outing of the season, five innings, last week and came through again in his new role.
“I just picked it up for the summer,” Chally said. “It’s fun. It’s a different position learning stuff. I was glad my teammates were there to make plays for me when I got the ball up.”
The Vikings will try to avenge the loss to East this spring that knocked them out of the state playoffs.
“It’s good for the conference and it’s good on all kinds of levels,” Hahn said. “That’s a goal of ours now, to get (to the summer state tournament).”