If Hoffman Estates pitcher Jimmy Ward performed against any other team as he did against Bartlett Saturday, the Cinderella run for the 18th-seeded Hoffman may have ended in a regional championship celebration.
Instead, the Evansville-bound Ward, who pitched 6 solid innings of 5-hit ball, giving up 1 earned with 2 strikeouts, was upstaged by Bartlett's Doug VanDyke, who lost a no-hitter in the seventh during a late Hoffman rally, but concluded matters to earn a shutout and Bartlett a 2-0 win for its second-consecutive Class 4A regional title in Bartlett.
Bartlett (16-14), did so again by entering the postseason at .500, but this time earning the title with pitching gems in both regional games. In not allowing a run in the regional, the host Hawks allowed only 6 hits.
The winners managed 2 runs in the bottom of the sixth, with Friday's hero Colin Nowak knocking an RBI double into center field for the first run of the game.
The win puts No. 7 seed Bartlett into Thursday's 4:30 p.m. sectional semifinal at St. Charles East against Wheaton North, which beat South Elgin 5-0 Saturday in the Wheaton North regional final. Bartlett lost to the Falcons in a nonconference tilt last Saturday, 7-6, after holding a 6-5 lead in the sixth.
As for Hoffman Estates (12-19), the clock finally struck 12 on its magical run, which featured wins over No. 16 Elgin and a major upset over No. 2 Batavia on Thursday.
"You've got to tip your hat to the way their kid pitched," Hoffman Estates coach Todd Meador said. "VanDyke, he was on and kept us guessing and we've been playing good baseball till now and I think it was the seventh inning when we got our first good hit (in) Jimmy Ward."
VanDyke (7-2) gave up 1 hit with 7 strikeouts and 1 walk. His curveball worked effectively as he mixed speeds and location and kept Hoffman off-balance while throwing 94 pitches, 61 for strikes, including 15 first-pitch strikes to the 24 batters he faced.
"That's been our discussion in the playoffs -- pitching and defense is going to get it done and when you allow one hit that's taking care of that," said Bartlett coach Chris Pemberton. "I think our defense made some great plays as well. On both those ends, we were very successful and that allowed us to get the win today."
VanDyke admitted it was double the pressure building when he walked Justin Frame to lead off the seventh and gave up his first hit to Ward with one out.
"It's stressful, had a no-hitter going to the seventh, and in the regional final. It's just stress. But you just have to execute," said VanDyke. "It was just close them down right there after the basehit, just got to focus and throw strikes. That's about it. Just get the next out."
VanDyke struck out Keegan Mugerditchian for the second out and got Trevor Pye to ground to third, where Matt Vitulli fielded, stepped on third for the force and the regional championship.
"They were putting the ball in play, their first batter came out swinging. They were out here to beat us," VanDyke said. "Defense was key and (Ryan) Karrick at short and (Ben) Havel at first, the entire field was behind me the entire game. I knew they had my back and I was happy to have them behind me today."
Karrick fielded 4 groundball outs without any errors. It was the type of day where defense was key and 1 run would decide matters since both pitchers were stingy.
"Especially with (Friday's) game, winning 1-0 (over St. Charles North), we definitely knew it was going to be a close game," Nowak said. "Watching (Hoffman) on Wednesday playing Batavia, they won 5-4. So we knew it was going to be a one or two-run game and we had to stick it out to the end."
Bartlett had runners on in every inning but the fourth and fifth. The host Hawks stranded a runner at third in the second, and no runner got past second until the sixth when Karrick led off with a single and Vitulli bunted him over to second.
When Nowak came up with two outs, Ward threw a curve that the Bartlett DH waited for and cranked to center.
"I was going to try to put it to the right side and I was having trouble with his curveball earlier in the game," said Nowak. "I got down 0-1 and I kind of had a good feeling it was coming and I just sat back and took it to center."
Bartlett scored an insurance run off an error on a sharply-hit ball by Jake Barrutia down the left-field line in the next at-bat
"I was a little upset at myself because I threw a changeup to the first kid who got on," said Ward. "(Nowak) pulled it a little bit and got it into the gap and I shouldn't have thrown that. I feel I could have gotten something better. And then he got up and he did his job and hit a fly ball."
"I was very proud of our kids, we certainly had our ups and downs this year but the way we played over the last couple weeks is something I know the kids will look back and be proud of what they've done," said Meador. "Our school is full of kids with character and commitment and I feel blessed to have a chance to work with this group in particular."