Over the course of a tournament, championship teams need different players to step up.
In the championship game of the American Legion's Cook County tournament Saturday, it was the bottom part of Northbrook's lineup that delivered as the Braves' final four hitters contributed 7 hits and 8 runs.
Combined with a gutty pitching performance from Matt Hart, it all added up to a 9-6 victory over Arlington and a berth in the state tournament in Mattoon.
"It's a balance," said Theo Yfantis, who was 3-for-3. "We've had games where the top produces and the bottom doesn't. We are always picking each other up."
Yfantis drove in the first run of the game in the second inning with a double to score Sean Thomas, who also doubled. John Chico then brought in Yfantis with a single, and the Braves gave Hart a lead he would never relinquish.
In his first action on the mound in 10 days, Hart gave Northbrook everything he had -- and then some. The Wheeling graduate threw 96 of his 149 pitches for strikes and allowed 5 earned runs in 8-plus innings.
"I just felt good," Hart said. "I didn't feel like I was tired and the adrenaline was pumping. My arm felt fine, but I lost a little control at the end."
Friday night's hero Kalvin Thong had another big day at the plate with 3 hits, and his 2-run single with two outs in the fourth put the Braves up 4-0.
The bottom of the order got back to work again in the fifth inning as Thomas, Jason Scholl and Yfantis walked with two outs and David Shapiro (2-for-4, 3 RBI) made Arlington pay with a 2-run single.
Arlington looked to be making a comeback in the sixth as 2 errors on one play put Richie Gorski (2-for-5) and Matt Hendricks (2-for-5) in scoring position before John Burkiewicz smacked a triple. Erik Stoltzner's RBI single cut the deficit in half, but it could've been worse.
"It was good to get out of there with 3 runs and not give up any more, and then we were able to get a couple of those back," Hart said. "As a pitcher, you have to give the team a chance to win."
After Chad Bruce's bases-loaded double landed fair in the top of the eighth, the Braves led 8-3.
"If we didn't come through in the eighth and score a couple, it's a completely different ballgame," Yfantis said.
Arlington looked to rally in the home half of the eighth as Jimmy Pinakidis laced a 2-run triple and later scored on a wild pitch.
"Both of those 3-run avalanches, parts of them weren't his doing," said Northbrook coach Mitch Stewart of Hart. "When people do get in scoring position and they shouldn't be, you put plenty of heat on the pitcher. He handled it well. He's a horse."
Gorski led off the bottom of the ninth with a double and Hart's day was finally done. Stewart called upon tourney MVP Hank Erikson, and he closed out the game with 2 strikeouts and a popout.
"They fought hard," said Arlington coach Lloyd Meyer of the runner-ups. "Except for a duck snort here and a q-shot, we are in this game. And who knows if we win the next one? The breaks aren't always going to go your way, and they didn't today."