Jon Lenz doesn't get to pitch much because he's so valuable as Larkin's shortstop. But with games stacking up, the Royals needed the junior for an Upstate Eight Conference River Division doubleheader against St. Charles North Saturday in Elgin.
Lenz came through in a big way, pitching a complete-game shutout in Game 2 as the Royals salvaged a split with a 9-0 win.
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In the first game another little-used pitcher, Hunter Buerster, got the win in relief for the North Stars, entering a tie game and holding the Royals in check while the North Stars' offense rallied for a 9-6 win.
Things started inauspiciously for Lenz in Game 2. The first 3 St. Charles North batters hit the ball hard for singles. But with a big assist from his brother, Dan, Jon Lenz got out of the inning unscathed. Dan Lenz threw out leadoff man Cory Wright trying to steal, and Jon Lenz got two more outs to end the inning. He allowed just 3 more hits the rest of the way.
"I just kept working, kept throwing strikes," said Jon Lenz. "You know they're not going to hit everything. They found a few holes but you just trust your 'D.' "
Meanwhile, his offense gave him all the support he needed. Tyler Kalusa had a single, a double, a triple, and a walk. He scored 3 runs and drove in 4. Jon Lenz had 2 hits to help his own cause, and Robert Bond scored twice for the Royals (10-16, 5-12).
Larkin coach Matt Esterino called it a breakthrough game for Kalusa.
"Once he gets that first hit out of the way, they're going to come in bunches for him," Esterino said. "I think he kind of relaxed offensively, and once he gets it going, he stays hot for awhile."
In Game 1, the North Stars scored in every inning but the seventh. They jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but Larkin rallied for 4 runs on just 1 hit in the bottom of the third. Starter Tanner Gardon's 3-run double was the only hit, but the Royals were helped by a couple of walks and a couple of hit batters.
After Gardon's double tied the score, Buerster came in and held the Royals to just 1 run in 3⅓ innings. After he walked the leadoff batter in the seventh, Frankie Farry came in for the save.
Riley Coomes, John Legare, and Joe Kuczek had 3 hits apiece for St. Charles North.
"He hasn't pitched a whole lot, so he really stepped up as a senior, gave us 4 quality innings and got the win," said St. Charles coach Todd Genke of Buerster. "We've played 6 games in 5 days this week, so pitching is obviously been pretty limited toward the end of the week."
Buerster pitched for just the second time this year, but wasn't intimidated by coming into a game that was shaping up as a slugfest.
"It's hard, but all my teammates have my back and the coaches trust me," he said. "I just have to throw strikes."