As the high school baseball regular season winds down, St. Charles North is no longer a contender in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division race.
However, the North Stars could play a big determining role in which team does capture the UEC River title.
Sophomore southpaw Cory Wright (4-2) fired a 3-hit complete game to help lead the North Stars (13-13, 9-10) to a 3-0 triumph over Batavia (20-6, 14-6) Friday afternoon in Batavia.
With the loss, the Bulldogs fell into a virtual first-place tie in the UEC River with St. Charles East (15-6 in conference).
Wright, who struck out 6 and walked 1, only allowed 2 runners to reach in the same inning once and improved as the game went along.
After North Stars first baseman Jack Dennis threw out the Bulldogs' Laren Eustace at the plate on a fielder's choice grounder off the bat of Micah Coffey in the third inning, Wright went on to retire the next 13 batters.
"Cory was the story," North Stars coach Todd Genke said of Wright. "He keeps the ball down, he changes speeds, he locates very well and he's got a lot of maturity for a sophomore. Plus, he's a fierce competitor. You love to have those guys."
Wright also flashed some leather, fielding 3 comebackers and a well-placed bunt by Batavia's Danny Ritchason with relative ease.
"He's a fifth defender on the infield," said Genke. "He can make plays and it really helps you. First, it saves on your pitch count and two, it saves your defense."
"Obviously I play first base (too) so that plays a big role in my pitching defense," said Wright. "I work on it a lot with my coaches and my dad."
Wright and Batavia left-hander Jake Piechota were locked in a scoreless pitchers' duel for the first 5 innings before the North Stars got on the scoreboard in the sixth with some help from the Bulldogs' defense.
Junior Frankie Farry, who fielded 3 grounders flawlessly while starting his first game at shortstop, began the rally with a leadoff single.
Kurt Barbeau then laid down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded but thrown errantly to second, allowing courtesy runner Tim Hausl to take second.
At that point, Genke opted to put the runners in motion.
"We rolled the dice there and tried to do something a little unconventional, and I think they were surprised that we were running there," said the coach.
When the Bulldogs' catcher threw wildly to third, Hausl came across with the game's first run.
Ryan Thomas, who missed the first few minutes of the game while returning from taking the AP test with teammate Tim Misner, then delivered an RBI triple down the right-field line for a 2-0 lead.
"We got done at 4 (p.m.) and drove here at 4:40," said Thomas, who went in to play third base in the middle innings. "It's not normal warming up during the game down the base line. I actually was going to bunt there with guys on first and second with nobody out but it ended up working in our favor."
Kyle Khoury drove in the final run with a sacrifice fly.
"We've pitched the ball very well in the last month but we hadn't been able to put a complete game together defensively or get some big hits when we needed them," said Genke.
Piechota also went the distance, fanning 6 without issuing a walk.
"It was a very well-played game with the exception of a couple mistakes that we made," said Batavia assistant coach Alex Beckmann, who served as interim head coach while Matt Holm attended his son's graduation from Iowa State.
"Jake threw all seven (innings)," added Beckmann. "We just didn't get runs for him today. That's how it works sometimes."
The teams conclude their 3-game series with a doubleheader Saturday in St. Charles.