There were some strange plays and far too many double plays, but in the end, Saturday's game was quite memorable for senior Tim Zettinger and his St. Francis teammates.
Playing host to previously unbeaten West Aurora on a windy Saturday morning, the Spartans (4-5) hit into three double plays and suffered a fourth twin-killing on a strikeout and caught stealing. The missed opportunities combined with a 2-run throwing error on a comebacker to the mound had the Blackhawks on top 4-1 in the fifth inning and looking to start the season 7-0.
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But St. Francis scratched out a run in the bottom of the fifth, scored twice in a bizarre sixth inning to draw even and then claimed a 5-4 walkoff win after Zettinger lined a single to center field that scored fellow senior Jack Petrando in the bottom of the seventh.
"It's great to know that you can pull out a win down two late in the game," said Zettinger, who was 3-for-3 with a walk and 3 stolen bases. "I just went up there knowing I was going to get a hit and it's a nice feeling to be stormed by your teammates and have everyone huddled around you."
It was back in the sixth when Zettinger started the odd inning with his second hit of the game. But he was then forced out at second after a high pop-up was blown toward the first base line and hit Zettinger in the shoulder while West Aurora second baseman Adam Lipscomb tried to make the catch.
A walk followed by a double steal led the way to Alex Alcantara's game-tying 2-run single off Blackhawks reliever Jared Liebelt, who was then called for a balk when he thought the umpires had signaled time was called. The confusion led the St. Francis press box to stop playing music for the remainder of the game.
Liebelt worked out of the inning without any more damage, but the Spartans finished off their comeback win in the dramatic home half of the seventh.
"That's part of baseball," St. Francis coach Rich Janor said of the four double plays that limited his team's attack in the first five innings. "But we kept chipping away. Our guys are confident and they know they are capable of scoring runs."
Spartans starter Jake Radel pitched 5 solid innings, but was hurt by a 2-run double off the bat of Lipscomb in the third and then by his throwing error that allowed two unearned runs to score in the fifth. Dan Zurawski (2-1) picked up the win after two scoreless innings of relief.
For the Blackhawks, lefty Tanner Reichardt was aided by the double plays and left after four innings of work and a 4-1 lead.
"We had plenty of opportunities to score more early on and we just didn't come through," Blackhawks coach John Reeves said. "A lot of things have gone our way while starting out 6-0, but this was a little bit of a reality check for us. We've got to score more runs when we have the chances."