The plain truth about high school tournament baseball is pitching and defense trumps all. On Thursday, Aurora Christian had both, while Westminster Christian had decent pitching.
Six Westminster Christian errors opened the way for Aurora Christian, and the Eagles played solid defense behind sophomore pitcher R.D. Lutze to earn a chance for a fourth regional title in seven years under coach Andy Zorger with a 10-1 victory in the Class 2A Westminster Regional semifinals.
“We played a clean game,” Zorger said. “We’ve worked toward that. We had a few struggles early, but definitely defense and pitching is going to carry us. Our offense has been up and down.”
The error-free defense was combined by Aurora Christian with an offense that capitalized on opportunities, as catcher P.J. Cole went 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI, Cody Worst was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Stephen Buhrt drove in two runs with a 2-for-3 effort.
It all added up to a Saturday noon championship showdown for second-seeded Aurora Christian (14-11) against top-seeded Rockford Christian with a sectional berth at Morrison at stake. And the Eagles will have their ace, J.T. Baksha, available because Lutze (3-4) lasted five strong innings.
“There were some times I had some struggles finding the strike zone, but I guess I battled and was able to do my job,” Lutze said.
Lutze struck out nine and allowed four hits in five innings with two walks.
Then Drew Wagner and Baksha threw an inning each to finish.
Only in the fourth, with the Eagles leading 3-0, did Lutze get in serious trouble. He allowed a leadoff double to Luke Weston and walked Frank Angiulo. Brendan Ruffolo’s hard, deflected RBI infield single trickled into the outfield, but Worst at short alertly tracked the ball down and nabbed the runner going for third to help keep Westminster from drawing any closer than 3-1.
A six-run sixth, highlighted by RBI singles from Cole, Worst and Buhrt, put it out of Westminster’s reach as Lutze remained in control throughout.
“He’s been kind of hit and miss,” Zorger said of Lutze. “He beat Kaneland 1-0. I was very pleased with him. He’s a sophomore; a big, strong kid. He competes, definitely.”
Angiulo, a reliever all year, started for Westminster and took the loss for his first decision. He went the distance, allowing 12 hits, but was betrayed by the six errors and gave up just one earned run. Ace Clay DeHaan had pitched Monday against St. Edward, and coach Brance Rivera decided the next-best arm was Angiulo’s.
“I thought Frankie did a heck of a job on the mound, but the defense wasn’t there and when the defense isn’t there it’s really hard to win baseball games,” Rivera said.
The Warriors (11-18) lose only DeHaan to graduation from Rivera’s first squad.
“All these guys have grown a lot over this season so that’s huge to see as a coach, too,” Rivera said. “I really like the looks of going into next year only losing one guy.”