Heading into the final month of the regular season as Upstate Eight Conference River Division contenders, Saturday's baseball doubleheader between St. Charles East and Geneva took on a little extra meaning as well.
Being prom night for both schools, the starting time for the doubleheader was an hour earlier than usual in order to make accommodations a little easier for everyone.
"It's interesting that they have theirs as well," Saints coach Len Asquini said of prom. "This is the first time that has happened."
Less than 24 hours after suffering a 10-0, 5-inning loss to the Saints (14-8, 10-6), the Vikings (13-7, 9-6) responded with a 3-2 victory in Game 1 before dropping the nightcap 7-4.
Senior right-hander Max Novak tossed a 5-hit complete game in the opener, walking 3 while striking out 5 -- the biggest of which was the game-ending punch-out with runners at first and second in the top of the seventh.
"Max pitched a great game," Vikings coach Matt Hahn said of Novak. "Our defense was good in the first game, our focus was good in the first game and our energy was good."
"We had a little team meeting where we all met here pretty early," said Novak. "We came here pretty focused. I had good defense behind me and I felt confident throwing to every batter."
On a day where the wind was blowing out, Novak wasn't afraid to pitch inside.
"A lot of fastballs inside," Novak said. "They were definitely working -- trying to jam them up."
Sophomore shortstop Nick Derr provided nearly all of the offense for the Vikings in Game 1. He followed leadoff hitter Jason Croci's double with a 2-run home run in the first inning.
With the score tied at 2-2 in the sixth, he led off with a double and came across with the game-winning run on Ben Chally's RBI single. Derr finished with 2 of the Vikings' 3 hits against Saints' pitchers Mike Boehmer and Mick Vyzral.
"Derr generated the runs for them," said Asquini. "We had so many opportunities and just didn't come through. You've got to credit Novak on the mound. Obviously he made some good pitches at good times."
Reid Olson and Erik Anderson had RBI singles for the Saints. Olson's hit appeared to tie the game in the second but the home-plate umpire ruled that the Saints' runner failed to touch the plate despite signaling the safe call on the field moments earlier.
In Game 2, St. Charles East grabbed a 1-0 first-inning lead on an RBI single by Brannon Barry (3-for-4, double) and made it 3-0 in the third on run-producing singles from Austin Regelbrugge and Anderson.
Senior southpaw Adam Eck battled through 4 scoreless innings before giving way to relievers Kyle Cook and Keegan Kennedy.
"Guys weren't at their sharpest but our starters held them to 3 runs (on the day)," said Asquini. "We pitched through some moments."
Senior catcher Adam Rojas delivered an RBI double and Olson's wind-blown RBI double highlighted the Saints' 4-run fifth.
"I was looking for the inside fastball and I just yanked it down the line," said Rojas. "We did a lot better offensively in the second game."
Nick Porretto and Chally each had 2 hits for the Vikings, who scored their 4 runs in the last 2 innings.
"In the second game, we kind of lulled ourselves to sleep between walks, a hit batter and a couple misplayed popups," said Hahn. "It's going to hurt any team when you give up free passes like we did today."
"We came here trying to get a sweep but it's just another 1-run loss for us," said Asquini. "All eight of our losses are by 1 or 2 runs. We came through with some big hits today but just not enough of them for a sweep."