Luke Horton and his Batavia teammates had plenty to celebrate following a 13-4 victory at Geneva on Tuesday -- and that's just what they did.
Horton fired a complete game, running his perfect record to 7-0, while Batavia hit the 20-win mark and won the series over the Vikings.
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Coupled with St. Charles East's loss to Streamwood on Tuesday, Batavia (20-5, 14-5) now finds itself alone in first place in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division with a pair of three-game series remaining against St. Charles North and Streamwood. The Saints are 14-6.
No wonder the Bulldogs came out of their postgame meeting in right field hooting and hollering, slapping each other on the backs and smiling from ear to ear. Junior catcher Dean Simoncelli, currently sidelined, also received credit for firing up his teammates.
"We're all super pumped up about it," Horton said, speaking of reaching 20 wins, though he had plenty of the other aforementioned reasons. "I thought today was going to be a good hitting day because it was so warm. They (Geneva) are a real good team, their record doesn't show it. We're real happy with it."
Horton's success is one of the reasons Batavia is playing so well all spring, which in yet another bit of good news Tuesday saw the Bulldogs earn a No. 2 sectional seed. Horton doesn't throw as hard as some but uses a steady diet of off-speed pitches to make his fastball look that much quicker.
"Last year twice through the order was enough," Batavia coach Matt Holm said. "This year he has really worked on mixing things up. Changeup, slider, he knows how to pitch at this park where you can't groove fastballs."
Geneva (14-12, 11-10) got itself into trouble early. Batavia scored its 13 runs with only 9 hits, and that formula started from the first batter when Laren Eustace drew a walk and stole second.
Micah Coffey and Horton also walked, and Batavia then capitalized on a controversial play. Jake Piechota hit a grounder to Vikings second baseman Luke Polishak who was run into by the Bulldogs baserunner while trying to field the grounder.
Geneva coach Matt Hahn argued for an interference call that would have ruled the batter out and sent the runners back to their base, but instead two runs scored on the play, and Andrew Seigler followed with an RBI single to put Batavia up 3-0 and chase starter Brock Chenier.
"He (the umpire) said they got there at the same time and wasn't considered interference," Hahn said. "That would have had a huge impact on the game. Our pitcher was struggling, he could have got out of the inning. That changed the whole complexion of the game."
Lefty Mason Anderson worked the next 4 1/3 innings for Geneva before Ben Slattery tossed the final two. A 2-run homer from Matt Guenther drew Geneva within 4-2 heading to the fourth inning. But the Bulldogs scored three times in the fourth and four times in the fifth to build a commanding 11-2 lead.
Horton helped himself with RBI hits in both the fourth and seventh innings. Billy Zwick brought in a pair with a double in the fifth and another with a single in the fourth, and Coffey launched a 2-run home run in the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
"First week of May, 20 wins, we've had teams that have been really good and one that stands out, but this has been a team kind of in that model," said Holm, whose team got a scare in the fifth when catcher Matt Musielak left after a collision at the plate of what is feared to be the same injury that Simoncelli suffered against St. Charles East.
"The reality is that I don't think anybody expected much from these guys. I knew they would be solid. As we said from the beginning it would all come down to pitching."
Ben Chally stroked a 2-run double for the Vikings. Dan Berendt provided another highlight with an absolute rocket of a throw from right field to catch the speedy Eustace at third base.
"The combination of the throw and to throw that kid out was pretty impressive," Hahn said.