Streamwood's 4-3 victory over Waubonsie Valley in eight innings Thursday inadvertently paid tribute to hall-of-famer Yogi Berra by once again proving a baseball game "ain't over 'til it's over."
With the tying run at second base and two away, Streamwood starting pitcher Richie Gorski induced a high infield popup off the bat of Warriors cleanup hitter Troy Fumagalli.
A couple of fans began to fold up their much-needed blankets. The outfielders took a few steps toward the dugout. This baby was as over as over gets. Put out the fire, call in the dogs. Right?
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the foregone conclusion.
The ball popped in and out of the third baseman's mitt and fell to the grass for an error, allowing the tying run to score.
Blankets were unfolded. Outfielders returned to their spots.
Rejuvenated Waubonsie Valley (3-5, 0-2) scored another unearned run in the top of the eighth inning against reliever Jeremy Campbell on Sean Grannan's RBI groundout to take a 3-2 lead, but resilient Streamwood (5-5, 1-1) showed its mettle by rallying for 2 runs in the bottom half to walk off with the Upstate Eight Conference victory.
"Nobody would have figured the seventh inning would have gone down the way it did with a routine flyball dropped," Streamwood coach Steve Diversey said. "We could have cashed it in, caved and called it a day. We didn't, and that's a tribute to our guys."
Streamwood senior Alex Morrow, committed to play football for Northern Illinois, drove in the game-winning run. His high chopper with the bases loaded and one out was fielded cleanly on a short hop by Waubonsie Valley's third baseman, but speedy Mike Smith beat the throw home standing up before a force out could be recorded.
"I just wanted to make contact," said Morrow, who had twice grounded out, once into a double play. "I was called to the plate and I wanted to do something to help us win. It was a big win for us. It was a struggle, but we pulled through."
Warriors starting pitcher Mitch Stefani (0-3) took the loss despite pitching well enough to win for the third straight game. He retired the Sabres in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and had allowed only 4 hits through 7 innings. However, the heart of Streamwood's lineup got to him in the eighth as he approached 110 pitches.
"The last inning was a little struggle," Stefani said, "but I wanted to go out and finish the game. It's my game. They said I was on a short leash."
Brent Kiesel started the game-winning rally with a seeing-eye single to left field. Following a sacrifice bunt by Edgar Saldivar, Smith singled off Stefani's foot to put runners at the corners. Gorski then tied the game 3-3 by ripping a line-drive single to right field.
"I was pretty much in the zone there," Gorski said. "I was trying to shorten up, put the ball in play, hit a line drive. I'd been hitting the ball hard all day, but the first hit of the day felt good."
Brandon Larkin-Guilfoyle greeted Chris Dickens with a single to load the bases, setting the stage for Morrow's game-winning fielder's choice.
Gorski took a no-decision despite allowing only 1 earned run on 7 hits with 4 strikeouts in 7-plus innings. The only walk he issued became the tying run in the seventh. Campbell (1-0) earned the win in relief.
Yogi Berra also said baseball is 90 percent mental -- the other half is physical. Waubonsie Valley coach Dan Fezzuoglio, who lamented his team's lack of "good situational baseball" in stretches, touched on the same theme after the loss, albeit more eloquently.
"We talk about being aware, but with some things we weren't mentally there and we didn't control, and that came back to haunt us," Fezzuoglio said. "Balls in the dirt and not getting to second, reading signs, knowing what to do in certain situations. We have to be mentally better than we were today."