There have been very few rough outings this year for Bartlett righthander Colin Nowak, but one of them came during the regular season against Lake Park.
The Hawks junior more than made up for that in Saturday's Lake Park regional championship, striking out 14 Lancers without a walk and defeating the hosts 5-3 for the baseball program's first regional title in 10 years.
"It was kind of a pride thing. Since they rocked me in the regular season I knew I had to come back strong this time," said Nowak, who was in total command all game aside from allowing a pair of home runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Bartlett, which knocked off the sectional's top seed, Geneva, in the regional semifinals, reached the .500 mark at 19-19 with Saturday's win and also advances to the Schaumburg sectional semifinals on Wednesday against Willowbrook.
While Nowak (7-2) was striking out four batters in the first inning and registering eight Ks through three innings, it was leadoff hitter Robert Smith who did his part to jumpstart the Bartlett attack.
Smith led off the game with a double to right center off Lancers sophomore Rhett Rapshus (4-2) and two outs later scored the first run of the day on an infield single by Dan Gallanis. Smith then led off the third with a triple to right center and scored the second of his three runs after Rapshus and reliever Ryan Castello combined to walk four batters in the inning as Bartlett built a 3-0 lead.
"I try to give a little spark to the team to get us going," said Smith, who was hit by a pitch in the sixth and then came home on a 2-out, 2-run double off the bat of Ryan Karrick that proved to be the difference in the game. "We're a No. 16 seed out to shock the world. Our goal is to go downstate, so we're not done yet."
When Karrick's double made the score 5-0, it looked as if Nowak and company might just breeze to victory. But Lake Park, which had beaten Bartlett two out of three during the regular season, would not go down without a fight.
Nowak, who did not walk a batter, did hit Tom Spear with one out in the sixth before recording his 12th strikeout of the day. But with two outs, Lancers first baseman John Schram blasted a 2-run shot over the wall in left field and Anthony Gallina followed with a solo shot over right-field fence.
Hawks coach Chris Pemberton came to the mound but decided to leave Nowak in the game. Two singles followed to give the Lancers four straight hits and the tying runs on base, but Nowak retired Erik Benhart on a soft liner to third to end the threat.
"We pride ourselves on the fact that our kids don't give up until the last out's in somebody's glove," said Lake Park coach Dan Colucci. "It's nice to see these guys get themselves back in the game. It's just too bad we couldn't take care of business early on."