For five-and-a-half innings in the semifinals of the St. Charles East regional Wednesday against Geneva, nearly everything that could go wrong for St. Charles North did.
The North Stars dropped a pop-up in the first inning that scored the Vikings' first run. They threw away two bunts in the sixth inning to plate two more runs and fall behind 4-0.
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The North Stars, seeded No. 1 in the regional, only had 1 hit against Geneva starter Drew White.
And then just as suddenly St. Charles North got back in the game -- literally without taking the bats off its shoulder.
Geneva brought in Matt Williams, its Northern Illinois bound quarterback. Williams had only pitched 2 innings all summer.
He struck out the side in the sixth inning -- but also hit two batters, walked three and had a fly ball dropped. That cut Geneva's lead to 4-3 without allowing a hit.
After the Vikings scored another unearned run in the seventh, Williams walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the seventh and later walked another hitter and gave up an infield hit. St. Charles North had cut Geneva's lead to 5-4 and had the tying and winning runs in scoring position when Williams got Ryan Jones to line out to shortstop Brock Cheniel to end the game.
The Vikings' wild 5-4 win -- the teams combined for 11 walks, 4 hit batters, 6 errors and just 6 base hits, all singles -- sends Geneva into a summer regional championship game for the first time in school history. The No. 4 seeded Vikings (19-9-2) will play No. 2 Harlem (17-1) at 1 p.m. Thursday at St. Charles East.
"It feels real good," Geneva coach Matt Hahn said. "The thing that matters is regardless of what happens tomorrow is the momentum that carries into the spring.
"That is the best team I've seen all summer. It's good to beat a conference opponent and a good opponent."
North Stars coach Todd Genke certainly was pleased with his team while going 22-3 this summer. But he was stunned by the number of mistakes they made Wednesday.
"As poorly as we played we still had a chance to win in the seventh, but overall pretty disappointed in the outcome," Genke said.
"We did a lot of good things this summer. The errors we made today we haven't done all summer. That's what happens. You get in a tight game and those plays need to be made. They (Geneva) made a lot of them."
It was much more smooth sailing for Geneva through the first five innings than the last two. White allowed just 1 hit, 1 walk and 0 runs.
"It was hot but I felt great out there," said White, who relied on his fastball and change while struggling with his curve. "My arm was a little sore last week but today it went away. My defense helped me out a lot today. I relied on them."
That defense included several sharp plays from Andy Francis at third base, a running catch in deep left field by Bobby Hess, catcher John Swiderski hustling to catch a pop-up behind home plate while crashing into the wall, and right fielder Jake Weede backing up Williams who just missed a diving catch in center field and throwing out a runner trying to stretch a single into a double.
St. Charles North, meanwhile, made 5 errors, the first in the first inning when the North Stars dropped a Williams' pop-up to allow Francis to score all the way from first.
"I thought the turning point of the game was when we dropped a pop-up," Genke said. "All of a sudden we are chasing. We came out flat after that."
Geneva took a 2-0 lead in the third when Hess led off with a single and scored on an RBI single to right field by Francis.
The Vikings scored twice in the sixth without hitting the ball out of the infield. Swiderski drew a walk to start the inning, and Jake Weede and Luke Polishak laid down bunts that the North Stars threw away, opening the doors for a 4-0 lead.
It looked bleak for the North Stars at that point before they capitalized on Williams' control problems to score 4 runs in the last 2 innings. Williams threw 69 pitches in just those 2 innings, 37 balls, nearly as many pitches as White (74) tossed in the first 5 innings.
But Williams shook off the struggles to get the final out.
"We have had an agreement all summer that when he wants to pitch he comes tell me," Hahn said. "He told me in the second I can go as many as you want today. He's a clutch player and a senior because nothing ever rattled him. He got his outs when he needed them."
Hess, Geneva's No. 9 hitter, was the only player on either team with a multihit game. Francis went 1-for-3 with 2 runs and an RBI while getting robbed on a dazzling play by North Stars shortstop Jake Smiley who threw out Francis from his knees from deep in the hole.
Jake Johansmeier and Nick Gilmore singled for the North Stars' only 2 hits. Johansmeier also was hit by 2 pitches to reach base 3 times.
"We finished the summer 22-3 so there's not a lot to hang your head about but when you have more errors than hits that's tough," Genke said.
Tony Landi will start for Geneva in Thursday's championship game. The Vikings have reached the title game for the first time despite missing Williams for much of the summer and playing without shortstop Mitch Endriukaitis (lower back injury).
"To get this far without those two guys, we're excited for the spring but we aren't looking past tomorrow," Hahn said. "They (Harlem) have been good in the past so it should be fun tomorrow."