There’s more to South Elgin than ace Ryan Nutof’s pitching, and Monday the Storm proved it.
After Evanston’s four-run sixth inning wiped out what had been a 3-0 South Elgin lead, the Storm merely shrugged off the 6-3 deficit with its own four-run sixth, before hanging on behind reliever Tyler Brown for a 7-6 victory in the Class 4A Schaumburg Supersectional.
“The kids don’t quit,” coach Jim Kating said after South Elgin earned its first trip to the state semifinals.
Dane Toppel followed a game-tying, sixth-inning RBI single by No. 9 hitter Kyle Hays with an RBI single to right-center to deliver the lead for South Elgin (24-10) for good. The Storm had already scored on a passed ball and on Kevin Barry’s RBI groundout.
Then Brown, on the hill in relief of Nutof, walked two and struck out two before he retired Mackenzie O’Neil on a bit of nice glove work behind first base by Nutof to send the Storm to Joliet for Friday’s 5 p.m state semifinal.
“This group has been talking about going Downstate since I met them,” Kating said. “And now the goal is coming true.”
Toppel’s hit gave reliever James Allen the loss and Brown the victory.
“He threw me four straight sliders, so I knew he had to come to me eventually,” Toppel said. “That’s what happened. And I just sat back and drove it to the right side.”
Nick Menken and Danny Asa drove in runs in the first and Hays a run in the second for South Elgin’s 3-0 lead, which was surrendered with the four-run rally against Nutof, who allowed nine hits.
“The entire time in the dugout everyone’s tempo was up,” Hays said. “Everyone was feeling good even though we fell behind.
“We knew we were going to come back and win this game.”
Brown got the win and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth after Nutof gave up the runs.
“I felt like it was on me,” Nutof said. “I felt like I let the team down with their rally.”
His teammates weren’t about to let it happen, and Nutof had a hand in the winning rally. He doubled leading off the sixth for the first extra-base hit of the game. After a groundout, Asa walked and Antonio Danesi singled to load the bases. A passed ball scored a run, then Barry reached on a fielder’s choice to score another. Finally, Hays and Toppel produced their hits.
Dylan Mulvihill started for Evanston (23-14-1), but left after one out and Danesi’s hit in the sixth.
In the seventh, Evanston had runners at first and second when O’Neill hit it behind first and Nutof appeared to bobble it a second, but grabbed it and won the race to the bag for the final out.
“This team has got no quit,” Toppel said. “We’re the hardest working team in the area.”