There was little question entering Monday's Class 2A regional quarterfinal that Westminster Christian senior Clay DeHaan and St. Edward junior Jack Tierney were each talented enough to pitch their respective teams to a playoff win.
DeHaan entered with an ERA of 2.93 in 45⅓ innings; Tierney with a 2.33 ERA in 39.
The question was which pitcher's defense would support him best in light of the 148 combined errors their teams committed during the regular season.
Both pitchers acquitted themselves admirably in a battle between Elgin private schools, but DeHaan's Warriors defended better in a 5-2 victory.
No. 6 seed Westminster Christian (11-17) committed a pair of third-inning errors that allowed No. 3 St. Edward (9-17-1) to briefly take a 1-run lead, but the Warriors played error free the rest of the game and capitalized when St. Edward committed 3 costly errors with the score tied 2-2 in the top of the seventh, leading to 3 unearned runs.
The victory advances host Westminster Christian to Thursday's regional semifinal against No. 2 Aurora Christian.
"It feels great to move ahead, especially with these guys," said DeHaan, his team's only senior. "We've had some tough games, some 2-1 losses and stuff. It feels great to finally get one, especially this late in the year, playing good baseball."
Westminster No. 9 batter Nic Anquilo struck out to open the seventh, but he reached base safely due to a high throw to first by the St. Edward catcher on a dropped third strike. Leadoff hitter Tyler Mamrot followed with a basehit, which ended Tierney's outing after 6-plus.
St. Edward first baseman Jake LaFrenz relieved and was greeted by a sacrifice bunt from Ian Merlak. LaFrenz's replacement at first base fielded the ball cleanly, but he threw wildly to third base in an attempt to nail the lead runner. Both runners came around to score, giving Westminster Christian a 4-2 lead.
One out later, Merlak stole third base as the St. Edward third baseman was charging to cover a possible bunt. That left no one home to field the throw from the catcher. The ball sailed into left field untouched, allowing the third run of the inning to score.
"I don't know whether to cry or be angry," St. Edward coach Tim Dovichi said of his team's 5 errors. "It's just tough. Every run was unearned. Tierney goes out there and does his job and the defense didn't show up."
"We've had good plays and bad plays, but nothing really went our way," said Tierney, who allowed 5 hits and 2 walks and struck out 9. "There's really nothing you can do about it."
DeHaan (2-5), using a heavy dose of change-ups along with his fastball and curve, held the Green Wave to 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits and 4 walks and he notched 2 strikeouts. He walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the seventh, then induced St. Edward leading hitter Tighe Koehring to pop up before he coaxed a double-play grounder to end the game.
"He's pitched that well all year," Westminster Christian coach Brance Rivera said. "We just finally executed and backed him up, especially backed him up defensively."