The wind didn't blow at gale force Thursday afternoon in Elgin. Perhaps 10-15 mph sustained.
But the warm, southerly wind blew straight up the hill upon which Westminster Christian's tony baseball diamond sits and straight out to left field, thereby creating a lifting effect that turned any flyball hit in that direction from ordinary to extraordinary.
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St. Edward hit 2 such flies: Jack Tierney's first-inning, 2-run home run and Tighe Koehring's solo shot to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. Koehring's home run gave No. 2 St. Edward a 3-2 lead it never relinquished in a Class 2A regional semifinal victory over No. 3 Aurora Christian.
"I thought that was going to be a routine flyball," Koehring said of his game winner. "It didn't feel like a home run swing."
Off the bat it didn't look like a home run swing either, according to the competition.
"They got -- I don't want to say lucky because they put the ball in play -- aided by some wind," Aurora Christian coach Andy Zorger said. "They looked like routine pop flies off the bat and then they just kept going. It's tough when you outhit somebody and outpitch somebody. The bottom line is the score, and we didn't come out on top."
St. Edward (15-8) advances to a regional title game for the second straight season. The Green Wave will face Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division rival Aurora Central Catholic (26-7) for the Class 2A Westminster Christian regional title on Saturday at noon. ACC defeated St. Edward twice during the regular season, 5-4 and 3-0. The winner advances to the Byron sectional.
"It's an evenly matched game," St. Edward coach Tim Dovichi said. "As long as we can do something at the plate, we'll be all right."
The Green Wave expect to face ACC ace Matt Miller, who shut out St. Edward on 1 hit on April 16. Sophomore Jake LaFrenz will pitch for St. Edward, Dovichi said. LaFrenz was the losing pitcher in the April 16 loss, when he allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks. He struck out 5 in 52⁄3 innings.
"They are definitely a good team," said Jacob Koehring, who went the distance Thursday and scattered 7 hits. "When we played (ACC) I don't think we played our best game. We're going to be ready, I hope."
Aurora Christian jumped to a 1-0 first inning lead when Brandon Walgren singled with two outs and scored on Tristin Withrow's basehit.
St. Edward responded in its half of the first. Leadoff batter Mikey Castoro singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by LaFrenz. Tierney then drove a 1-0 pitch into the jet stream for a home run that staked the Wave to a 2-1 lead.
"Flyballs that I thought were going to be caught got up in the air and carried," said Aurora Christian starting pitcher J.T. Baksha (3-2), who struck out 10 and walked none. "We didn't put the ball over there and take advantage of it. This whole week we worked on hitting groundballs and the one day the wind blows out we don't hit flyballs."
The Eagles tied the game in the fourth inning when Stephen Burhrt's two-out single to center field scored P.J. Cole.
However, St. Edward answered immediately with Tighe Koehring's blast on a 1-1 pitch from Baksha. Jacob Koehring (4-2) did the rest on the mound, retiring 9 of the final 10 batters he faced.
"I definitely relied on the team a lot; I could count my strikeouts on one hand," said Jacob Koehring, who struck out 2 but induced 10 groundouts and 9 flyouts. "I relied on the team and they came up big."