It hasn't always been fun for Lake Zurich's baseball boys this spring.
Not for Joey Holtz, either.
Consider that the Bears junior second baseman had been getting ribbed by his team lately because his batting average, while on the rise, has continued to equal his slugging percentage.
"No more," a smiling Holtz said Wednesday after helping Lake Zurich play the spoiler's role by beating visiting Stevenson 5-3 in North Suburban Lake Division action.
The singles-hitting Holtz muscled up on a pitch in the second inning, hitting a tailing drive deep to right field. The ball bounced around on the warning track, as Holtz hustled to third with a standing triple.
It was his first extra-base hit of the season.
"It just feels great to get one, finally," Holtz said.
His head coach felt the same about the victory. Stevenson committed 5 errors in suffering a devastating defeat. Three of the Patriots' errors came in Lake Zurich's 3-run fifth, when the Bears managed just 1 hit.
"Finally the shoe was on the other foot; someone made more errors than us," coach Gary Simon said after his Bears made a pair of errors in improving to 9-15 and 4-5 in the NSC Lake.
Stevenson (14-9, 7-3) needs to sweep its home-and-home series next week with front-running Mundelein in order to earn a share of the NSC Lake championship. The Patriots' other two divisional losses were away, too -- at Warren and Libertyville.
"If you want to win NSC conference, you have to win on the road, and we couldn't do it," Stevenson coach Paul Mazzuca said.
Stevenson's failure to execute was evident in the top of the fifth, as well. Austin Black's sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out in a 2-2 game. Then with No. 3 hitter Jimmy Marchese at the plate, Mazzuca called for a suicide squeeze with Indiana-bound left-hander Austin Foote on in relief of starter Mike Shastany (4 innings, 0 earned runs, 4 strikeouts).
Marchese couldn't get his bat on the ball, and Bears catcher Anthony Drago tagged Eli Greenspon coming down the line.
The Patriots didn't score in the inning.
"Lefty (on the mound) so obviously he can't see the runner (at third), and we had a kid (Marchese) who usually handles the bat well," Mazzuca said. "I was thinking there was a good possibility of us scoring two on that play because (Willie) Bourbon (who's fast) was on second. If we get that bunt down, Bourbon's already at three and making a hard turn. We didn't execute today."
Its pair of fourth-inning miscues aside, Lake Zurich did execute in the field. Homer-hitting Nick Jones showed off his defense in this game, making a pair of running catches in center field, and the game ended with a defensive gem.
With Bourbon on first base with a one-out single, Marchese hit a shot that Shastany, now playing third base, knocked down. Shastany retrieved the ball and fired to first. The throw short-hopped Tanner Kiser, who somehow scooped it.
"Just trying to help the third baseman out," Kiser, who will play college baseball with Shastany at Oakton next year, said with a laugh. "Just trying to end that game."
"That was phenomenal," Simon said of Kiser's pick.
Lake Zurich had only 4 hits, half by Holtz, whose two-out single in the 3-run fifth eluded the center fielder, allowing Kiser to score all the way from first base.
"Joey Holtz has been hotter than hot at the plate," Simon said.
"We've always known we have a good team," Holtz said. "We just had to get some things clicking together. I thought the intensity was up. The whole team was together today and we just got it done. It feels good to get a win."
Foote allowed a solo home run to big Zach Novoselky (2 RBI) in the sixth but earned the win, striking out four in 3 innings of work. Stevenson got doubles earlier in the game from Black and Greenspon (2-for-3).
Kiser's run-scoring double in the third had Lake Zurich up 2-0. Braven Bacardi had an RBI groundout, scoring Holtz, in the second.
"We started off a little rough (this season), but we've been coming on strong," Kiser said. "We know we got a couple of good pitchers, and our pitchers are coming around. We felt like we could take care of business today, and I feel we did that."