A mud-caked uniform was the small price Batavia left fielder Laren Eustace paid for making a catch that thwarted South Elgin's best threat in a 2-0 Upstate Eight baseball crossover win Friday.
Protecting a 1-0 lead with the bases loaded in the third, Eustace charged a high flyball to shallow left off the bat of Storm cleanup hitter Joe Crivolio. He closed on the ball quickly, made a diving catch toward the infield and popped right up with chunks of cold, wet outfield grass and dirt spackled to his uniform.
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"I got all muddy but it was worth it," he said. "At first I thought it would drop, but it hung up there for me."
That wasn't Eustace's only spectacular catch. In the sixth inning he sprinted toward foul territory and made a diving grab on the dead run to retire leadoff hitter Alex Wolfe.
"We chart web gems and he had a couple of them," Batavia coach Matt Holm said.
Batavia (10-1, 5-1) didn't generate much offense against South Elgin starting pitcher Joe Crivolio (0-1), who limited the Bulldogs to 2 earned runs on 7 hits, a walk and no strikeouts in 6 innings. But all starting pitcher Colby Green needed was the 2-run cushion provided by Aaron Hurd's second-inning, run-scoring single and Luke Horton's double steal of home plate in the sixth.
Green (1-0) did the rest, tossing a 2-hit shutout with 5 strikeouts and a walk. He fed the Storm a steady diet of biting curveballs and made sure he established the inner portion of the plate.
"My inside fastball was really working and I was able to jam them a lot," Green said. "And our defense really kept me going."
South Elgin threatened again in the fourth inning when junior Ryan Nuthof opened with a triple off the top of the right-center field fence. However, Nuthof was left stranded at third when Green induced 2 shallow flyouts and a groundout to second baseman Jeremy Schoessling.
It was the first loss in UEC crossover play for South Elgin (5-2, 5-1).
"We hit the ball and put it in play, but they made the plays," South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. "Their left fielder made two key catches, but it comes down to a couple of mental things for us. We had a man at third with nobody out in a 1-0 game and we can't score him. Then we throw through on that double steal and they score. I thought Joe pitched well enough to win, but it comes down to little things we can do better."
Green did not allow another hit after Nuthof's triple opened the fourth inning. He retired 11 straight until beaning a hitter with two outs in the seventh. However, that baserunner was thrown out attempting to steal second base by Batavia catcher Dean Simoncelli to end the game.
Hurd recorded the game's only RBI. His run-scoring single in the second inning plated Andrew Seigler, who drew a one-out walk and moved to third on Simoncelli's sharp single to left.
"(Crivolio) was a pretty good pitcher," Hurd said. "He located well and made it tough on us, but I got a low changeup, I think. At least it was slower than his other stuff."