A theme emerged from the dramatic conclusion of the 3-game baseball series between Larkin and Elgin: it only takes one big inning.
Larkin dominated Elgin for the first 13 innings of Saturday’s doubleheader at Trout Park, but the Maroons mitigated five hours of frustration with a 6-run rally in their final at-bat of Game 2 to win 10-9, thereby splitting the twinbill and winning the series 2-1.
Ryan Sitter doubled in a run and Ethan Henke doubled home 2 more to pull Elgin within 9-7, setting the stage for No. 9 hitter Omar Valadez to play walkoff hero with the bases loaded and two outs.
Valadez was 0-for-2 on the day with 3 walks and had reached on an error. He ran the count full against Larkin reliever John Jawoski and swatted a 3-run double to the right-center gap, scoring hustling catcher Brandon Higdon all the way from first base ahead of the throw.
“I was just thinking get a single or a basehit to tie the game or something,” Valadez said once the Elgin celebration died down, “but he left it up and I hit it into a gap.”
“I’m happy for Omar,” Elgin coach David Foerster said. “He’s one of our hardest workers if not our hardest worker since September, October. He just gets after it. He’s a polite kid, a great kid. I’m so happy for him that he was able to come through in that spot.”
Larkin starting pitcher Jon Lenz had a 9-4 lead when he walked Isaac Narayan to open the bottom of the seventh. Lenz was relieved by Jawoski (0-2), who issued 2 more walks and allowed 4 hits.
“It always hurts, especially losing a game like that,” said Larkin catcher and co-captain Niko Morado, who finished the day 3-for-4 with 2 doubles and 5 RBI. “We played 13 solid innings. Most of the second game was a good one up until that last inning.”
Larkin also led most of Thursday’s series opener until Elgin rallied for 4 runs in the sixth inning and won 6-5.
“All 3 games we outplayed them for all but two innings, but they got the big innings,” Larkin coach Matt Esterino said. “We played pretty clean baseball for 2 of these 3 games, but we just didn’t shut them down when we had to. We kind of flat-lined a little in the fifth, sixth and seventh. Either way we need to protect a 5-run lead in the seventh inning. That’s what it comes down to.”
Larkin (6-10, 3-9) won the opener 7-3 behind the solid pitching of Jack McCracken (3-3). The junior scattered 7 hits and did not allow an earned run in a complete-game victory. The Royals led that contest 2-0 before they erupted for 5 runs in the fourth inning, keyed by Morado’s 2-run double. Right-hander Nick Turner (0-3) took the loss.
Elgin (5-12, 4-10) scored 3 runs in the seventh inning to break up McCracken’s shutout, but it wasn’t enough to offset 6 errors in the ballgame. In fact, the Maroons committed 9 errors in the doubleheader, but the Game 2 comeback obscured those blemishes.
“Hitting the ball, getting this win, makes it go away,” said Sitter, who went 3-for-7 with a double and a 3-run home run in Game 2. “Crosstown rival, big game, walkoff win? I mean, it was just pure joy running out of that dugout. Everything else went away, all the errors, everything.”
Jonathan Zima (2-3) earned the Game 2 victory in relief of starting pitcher Kiko Mari. He limited the Royals to 1 run on 3 hits in 4 innings.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.