It took a handful of innings, but that sense of urgency finally kicked in for Lake Park's baseball team.
The top-seeded Lancers were pushed to the brink of playoff elimination before rallying for a 5-3 victory over Schaumburg in the Class 4A Schaumburg regional semifinals Wednesday at Boomers Stadium.
Lake Park (26-10) advances to Saturday's regional final to face Thursday's winner between Willowbrook and York. For a while, however, it looked like the 15th-seeded Saxons (8-16) might be the team advancing.
They sprang to a 3-1 lead before Lake Park scored 4 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to seize command. With senior ace Christian Taugner on the mound for the final three innings -- the Lancers' third pitcher of the game -- the comeback victory was complete.
"You've got to give them credit, they came out aggressive and put a bunch of hits on the board," said Lancers coach Dan Colucci. "I'm just happy we played good defense, hit when we needed to hit, and took advantage of mistakes. I told these guys I'd rather see an ugly win than a pretty loss."
The Lancers struggled to mount any kind of offense against Schaumburg starter Brad Schwind until the bottom of the fifth when timely hitting, combined with a pair of errors, reversed the game's momentum.
With the Lancers trailing 3-1 with one out, Anthony Gallina laced a 2-run single to tie the game. Taugner followed with an RBI single and Eric Vatch, Lake Park's starting pitcher, added a sacrifice fly.
All 4 runs were unearned against Schwind as the Lancers built their 5-3 advantage.
"It was nerve-racking, definitely," said Gallina, who bounced back after striking out his first two times to the plate. "These are the kind of playoff games you just have to grind out a little bit. We didn't expect to be in this position, but we strung a couple hits together, and good teams do that. They just come up big when they need to."
Five of Schaumburg's 10 hits came in the third inning when the Saxons broke out to a 2-0 lead on Michael Fan's sacrifice fly and Omar Sandoval's run-scoring single. After Dom Romito singled home a run for Lake Park in the fourth inning, Schaumburg responded with a run off Taugner in the fifth on Kyle Reinhart's RBI single.
Taugner retired the final seven batters he faced and needed only 31 pitches to make it through the final three innings. Colucci said the Brown-bound right-hander will be ready to start in Saturday's final.
"We had momentum and we were fully believing we were going to win that game," said Schaumburg coach Cal Seely. "Not the outcome we want, but it's nice to take the No. 1 seed three pitchers deep and working really hard."
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