Bartlett coach Chris Pemberton said he was hoping for some ground balls in Monday's Upstate Eight crossover at Elgin so his defense could find its rhythm, but starting pitcher Colin Nowak and reliever Matt Lathan rendered their teammates' mitts almost unnecessary.
Nowak struck out 13 Maroons in 6 innings and Lathan struck out the side in the seventh as the Hawks cruised past Elgin 8-2.
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"My location was on and my mechanics felt good," said Nowak, who allowed 2 earned runs on 2 hits with a lone walk. "It just all worked out for me."
Nowak (1-1), who said he learned after school his spot in the rotation had been moved up, was staked to a 4-0 lead before he ever took the mound, thanks to a 4-hit outburst in the top of the first inning against Elgin starting pitcher Kiko Mari (0-2). Cleanup hitter Ben Havel and Nowak each smashed run-scoring doubles to the outfield wall, Jake Barrutia's infield single drove in another run and third baseman Matt Vitulli's sacrifice fly gave Bartlett (3-2, 2-2) a 4-0 lead.
"We saw that he was throwing strikes when he was warming up," Vitulli said of Mari. "We figured jump on him early, get him down, get our boys going in the dugout and shut them down."
Elgin (0-5, 0-4) mustered just 2 hits, one of them a solo home run in the second inning by No. 5 hitter Nick Turner. The lefty turned on a first-pitch fastball and ripped it over the center field wall to trim the deficit to 4-1. However, like seven of the nine hitters in Elgin's lineup, Turner also struck out twice.
"Not only did (Nowak) have a quick fastball, but it was a cutting, moving fastball," Turner said. "When you get a pitch not only quick but moving, it's really tough to put a bat on it. Still, we should have come out better than that. We have to be more focused."
Turner's coach echoed his sentiment.
"Nowak was the main reason why we struggled so much, but we have to have better at-bats," Elgin coach David Foerster said. "Just put the ball in play and put the pressure on them a little bit. That's the bottom line."
Bartlett added a run in the third inning on Vitulli's RBI double, but the Maroons drew within 5-2 in their half of the third when Nowak was called for a balk with Elgin's Omar Valdez on third base.
Bartlett got that run back in the fourth inning on catcher Mike Roberson's run-scoring groundout and added 2 more runs in the sixth, keyed by a Roberson infield single, which scored Mike Wick.
Nowak retired the last 11 hitters he faced, giving way to Lathan after 94 pitches. Nowak didn't allow a ball hit to the outfield until Elgin No. 3 hitter Ryan Sitter's flyball to left ended the sixth inning.
The Bartlett defense didn't get its chance to field the groundballs Pemberton was hoping for, "but if it's going to be because of strikeouts, we'll be happy to bypass one day," he said.
Weather permitting, Bartlett hosts an intriguing rematch against Geneva today at 4:30 p.m. The Hawks upset the Vikings last spring in a regional semifinal when Geneva was the No. 1 sectional seed and went on to win the regional. Elgin is back in action at Waubonsie Valley at 4:30 p.m.