St. Charles East's baseball team has made itself right at home in recent years playing postseason games in Geneva.
For the third time in 4 years, the Saints (24-11) captured a Class 4A regional championship at the expense of the host Vikings (20-16) with Saturday's 5-2 victory.
With their fourth consecutive regional title triumph, the fourth-seeded Saints earned a return trip to their home field, as they face top-seeded Lake Park in Wednesday's sectional semifinals.
"This is the place to win regional titles," said Saints coach Len Asquini. "We like our place, too. It was a big goal for us to come back and play at least one of those (sectional) games on our home field. We're happy and excited for that."
While current Kansas starting pitcher Wes Benjamin helped the Saints claim back-to-back regional titles over the Vikings in 2010 and 2011, another left-hander accomplished the feat on Saturday.
Senior southpaw Nick Huskisson (6-1) allowed 1 unearned run over the first 5 innings, often relying on a sharp breaking ball to rack up 9 strikeouts before giving way to right-handed reliever Troy Dykhuis.
Huskisson pitched out of several tough situations, as the Vikings stranded 7 runners over the first 5 frames -- including 3 in scoring position.
"I struggled a little bit to find a rhythm at the start," said Huskisson. "Luckily, I found it with runners on base. I was able to make some big pitches.
"The curveball was working pretty well for me in some key counts," added Huskisson. "It's definitely a good pitch to have with 2 strikes (on a batter) or getting ahead in the count."
Geneva grabbed a 1-0 lead in unusual fashion in the top of the first.
Bobby Hess reached on a dropped third strike with 2 out before Ben Chally's single put runners on first and second.
After a pickoff attempt at first base, Hess broke from second to third and an errant throw allowed Hess to come across with the game's first run.
"We're not real happy with how they scored their first run but that happens and it didn't rattle us," said Asquini.
However, the Vikings' lead was short-lived, as the Saints answered with 3 runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
Nicholas Erickson led off a single, stole second, took third on Sean Dunne's opposite-field single, and scored the tying run on an infield error.
After Huskisson's sacrifice bunt, Brian Sobieski launched a run-producing sacrifice fly to deep center, putting the Saints on top for good. Junior Brannon Barry followed with an RBI single to right, making it 3-1.
"The great thing was that we came back and pushed three runs across right away," said Asquini. "That probably helped us relax a little bit."
The Saints scored another unearned run in the third, as Joe Hoscheit reached on a throwing error before Huskisson singled to right-center. After courtesy runner Erik Anderson stole second and Sobieski was issued an intentional walk, Asquini called for a suicide squeeze.
Barry took an in-the-dirt offering from Tony Landi (5-2) that allowed Hoscheit to race home with the Saints' fourth run.
"It looked like it missed the bat," Asquini said of the play that was argued vehemently by Vikings coach Matt Hahn.
In the fifth, Huskisson (2-for-2) helped his own cause by lacing a double down the left-field line. After Sobieski earned his second straight intentional walk, Barry received a run-scoring free pass.
"We didn't give up too many outs today," Asquini said of his team's improved plate approach.
"If we can do that in sectionals, we could be tough to beat," said Hoscheit, who has been a part of all 4 regional titles. "I have good memories here -- that's for sure."
Huskisson was just happy to see his name penciled in the batting order.
"I didn't even get to hit a lot last year when I'd throw," said Huskisson. "Luckily, Coach (Asquini) had enough confidence to put me in the lineup this year."
Geneva pushed across its final run in the seventh, as freshman Nick Derr doubled and scored on Hess' RBI single.
"We gave ourselves come chances," said Hahn, whose starting lineup included just 4 seniors. "Yesterday, we got one big hit after another. Today, we had chances but it seemed like all of them came with 2 outs.
"You start two freshmen and two sophomores in a regional championship game and you play St. Charles East to a 3-run game," added Hahn. "It's kind of a double-edged story. It looks good going forward because you've got some young guys who got the experience. But you can't look past these seniors who have dealt with adversity all year.
"We now have seven 20-win seasons in a row. There's some consolation in that."