The Larkin baseball team gave rival Elgin a taste of year-old medicine Saturday.
Last season, Elgin mounted a 6-run rally late in Game 2 to split the annual Trout Park doubleheader and win the series 2-1.
Back at Trout on Saturday for the first 2 games of this year's 3-game set, Larkin capitalized on a pair of Elgin errors to rally for 3 runs in the sixth inning of a 5-3 victory in the nightcap.
The comeback win followed pitcher Jack McCracken's complete-game effort in a 6-2 victory in the opener and gave the Royals a doubleheader sweep and a 2-0 lead in the series, which concludes at Trout Park on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
"I'm proud of the guys," Larkin coach Matt Esterino said. "We both had prom (Friday night) so we knew in the second game we'd be dragging a bit, but our seniors wanted this bad after we lost two heartbreakers last year. The credit goes to the players."
Trailing the second game 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Elgin reliever Omar Valadez walked Dan Lenz with one out. Cameron Powers followed with a two-hopper that was fielded by Elgin's diving third baseman, but his rushed throw to first was in the dirt and skipped to the fence for an error. That allowed Lenz to score the tying run and Powers to advance to second base.
McCracken stepped to the plate next and smacked an 0-1 pitch to center field to plate a sliding Powers ahead of the throw, giving Larkin (8-12, 4-8) a 4-3 lead.
"The first pitch tailed away from me hard," McCracken said. "I saw that so I was just focusing on trying to hit it to the right side. I ended up hitting it up the middle, but I hit it well and it got the job done."
McCracken later scored to make it 5-3. He stole third and raced home on an errant throw by the Elgin catcher. It was the fourth error of the game for the Maroons, who allowed 5 unearned runs in Game 2.
"We had the lead, but we didn't play with the lead very well," Elgin coach David Foerster said. "We gave a few too many opportunities to them in the (sixth) inning. We didn't play very well. We need to be better than that in all phases."
Game 2 was tied 1-1 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth until McCracken's suicide squeeze bunt with runners at first and third scored Dan Lenz.
Elgin (6-12, 4-11) responded in the top of the fifth to take 3-2 lead. Jack Koeckritz stroked a 2-run double to left field, scoring Dean Anderson and Clay White.
Elgin held a 1-0 lead in Game 1 until the Royals scored 3 runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jonathan Avila tied it with a run-scoring double and catcher Jon Jowaski's go-ahead, 2-run double gave Larkin a 3-1 lead.
It was a meaningful moment for Jowaski, who has missed some time with the team recently to be with his father, Ken, who remains in critical care following recent triple-bypass surgery.
"I would rather be in the hospital with him today, but he would want me out here," said Jowaski, who caught all 14 innings of the doubleheader.
McCracken (4-2) scattered 8 hits, walked 3 and struck out 6, and the Royals played errorless defense behind him.
Brayden Royse gave McCracken more cushion in the fifth when he blasted Larkin's first home run this season, a 2-run shot off Elgin starting pitcher Kiko Mari (1-3).
"I knew as soon as I hit it, it was going to be gone," Royse said. "I'm pretty sure on any field it was going to be gone. I was pretty happy about that. Finally got my first one."
Royse started the second game on the mound, but said he "didn't have it." He pitched 5 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 7 hits and 3 walks. He struck out 6. Winning pitcher Jon Lenz pitched 2 scoreless innings in relief.
Elgin will attempt to salvage the series final on Monday.
"This doesn't define us, these 2 games," Koeckritz said of being swept. "We just have to come out next time and play our best."