Crystal Lake South ace Tyler Hall had won 18 of 20 decisions over two varsity seasons entering Thursday's Class 4A regional semifinal, but host Jacobs was hardly intimidated.
The Golden Eagles scored 7 runs against Hall (5 earned) on 9 hits in building a 7-0 lead through 3 innings, and they staved off a late comeback attempt to win 8-5.
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"(Hall) wasn't really hitting spots with his curveballs, so we knew we could jump on his fastball," Jacobs senior Connor Conzelman said. "It seemed like everybody on our team was hitting him. You don't have it everyday, I guess."
The victory advances No. 3 Jacobs (22-11) to a regional championship game for the second straight season. The Golden Eagles lost to CL South in the title game last year. They will attempt to win the first regional title in program history against Mid-Suburban League West champion Barrington (22-11), the fourth seed, on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Conzelman drew first blood for Jacobs with two outs in the first inning when he stroked a 3-2 pitch from Hall (9-2) to left field, scoring Greg Sidor, who had singled and moved to second on Grant Kale's hit-and-run single.
The Golden Eagles erupted in the second inning for 4 runs on 5 hits, including RBI singles from Matt Hickey and Joe Rizzuto, both of whom connected on 2-strike pitches. A pair of third-inning CL South errors led to 2 unearned runs and a 7-0 Jacobs lead.
"They hit 'em where they ain't and executed a couple of hit-and-runs there and did a nice job, so credit to the Jacobs hitters," CL South coach Brian Bogda said. "What are you going to do? Maybe we were too fine with 2 strikes because a lot of the hits they got were with 2 strikes."
The Gators actually outhit the Golden Eagles 14-13 but couldn't deliver the big hit when necessary against Jacobs starting pitcher Evan Blunk (4-3). The right-hander stranded 8 Gators on base through the first four innings, highlighted by a groundball to second base he induced to leave the bases loaded in the fourth.
CL South (21-7) finally broke through in the fifth inning, thanks to a two-out error. Junior Casey Oliver legged out an infield single with the bases loaded, and the low throw skidded past the first baseman and down the line for an error, allowing all 3 runners to score.
Jacobs got that run back in the sixth inning on Aaron Meciej's run-scoring infield single to take an 8-4 lead. The Gators countered with Troy Bittenbender's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth off Jacobs reliever Reilly Peltier to pull within 8-5.
CL South mounted a final threat with two outs in the seventh, but with runners at second and third and the potential tying run at the plate, Peltier got cleanup hitter Max Meitzler to ground out to first baseman Nick Ledinsky on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
"At the end of the game, there he is, a guy with as much power as anyone in this area with the tying run at the plate," Jacobs coach Jamie Murray said of Meitzler. "I was proud of Reilly Peltier being able to do what he did."
"We never thought we were out of it," said Meitzler, who went 1-for-3 with a double. "I told these guys we were going to win the game, but we came up short."
The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for CL South, co-champions of the Fox Valley Conference's Valley Division for the second straight season.
"I'm just proud of what these guys accomplished this year," Bogda said. "They have nothing to be ashamed of, especially the seniors with what they've done in two and, some of them, three years. It's probably the most wins (68) we've had in a three-year stretch ."