Left fielder Tyler Thorsen spent his junior season riding the pine as senior-dominated South Elgin charged to the Sweet Sixteen in Class 4A last spring.
Given his first start of this season in Friday's Upstate Eight crossover, Thorsen's two critical plays late in South Elgin's 3-2 victory had visiting Elgin pining for the days he was a bench fixture.
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First, he snapped a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth with an opposite-field single to right against Elgin starting pitcher Ryan Sitter, scoring senior Joe Criviolio with the go-ahead run.
He later ended the rematch of last year's regional championship with the defensive play of the game: a throw from left field to home plate that nailed Elgin baserunner James Stearns attempting to score the tying run from second base.
"We really have to win games off pitching and defense," Thorsen said. "We lost some big bats that we had last year. We're coming up in the clutch, and that's how we're going to have to win."
Thorsen charged the solid single to left field off the bat of Elgin No. 2 hitter Isaac Narayan, fielded the ball on a true hop and fired to junior catcher Nate Brummel on the fly. Brummel caught the ball five feet up the first-base line, pivoted and applied a diving tag to Stearns' chest and held on for the final putout.
"He got an opportunity and made the most of it," South Elgin coach Jim Kating said of Thorsen. "He won the game for us. He got a sacrifice down, had a hit, threw somebody out. He's a senior and he came up big for us."
Thorsen's throw and Brummel's tag made a winner of South Elgin pitcher Jake Hicks (1-0), who tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief of junior starter Tyler Brown. Brown limited the Maroons to 2 unearned run on 4 hits, struck out 5 and issued a walk in 5 innings.
Elgin (0-4, 0-3) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Nick Turner beat out a groundball to shortstop that was bobbled with two outs and the bases loaded. Two Elgin baserunners scored on the play, including Kiko Mari, who hustled all the way from second base.
South Elgin (3-1, 3-0) got a run back in the bottom of the first on Alex Wolfe's RBI single and tied the game in the fourth on a pinch-hit, two-out double by junior Ryan Nuthof, scoring Thorsen, who had drawn a one-out walk.
Otherwise, Sitter was tough. He threw 114 pitches over 6 innings, allowing 3 earned runs on 6 hits and striking out 9 while fighting through mechanical issues. His downfall was 5 walks, 2 of which scored, including Crivolio, who led off the sixth inning with a free pass and eventually scored the winning run.
"I had a disruption in my mechanics," Sitter said. "I was trying to overthrow things and it was throwing my mechanics off. That was the problem."
The Maroons battled until the final pitch. Down 0-2 in the count with two outs, Narayan laced a single to left field to give the Maroons a shot to tie. However, Thorsen made a perfect play to beat them.
"We hadn't really put together a full effort, so I challenged them to battle the whole way, good, bad, whatever happens," Elgin coach David Foerster said. "They did that, so I'm proud of the effort. Little short, but we'll get better and learn from it."