The plan worked to perfection for the Aurora Christian baseball team in a 10-1 victory over the generous hosts in a Class 2A Westminster Christian regional semifinal Thursday.
No. 2 Aurora Christian (14-11) was able to defeat No. 6 Westminster Christian (11-18) -- a young team without a senior in its starting lineup -- by throwing No. 2 pitcher R.D. Lutze (3-4). All he did was hold the Warriors to 1 earned run on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 10 in 5 innings.
That leaves left-handed ace J.T. Baksha, who worked the final inning against Westminster, to start against No. 1 Rockford Christian in the regional title game on Saturday at noon.
"Now we're in good shape with our ace ready to go on Saturday," said Lutze, whose team seeks its fourth regional title in coach Andy Zorger's seven seasons.
Reliever Lucas Kernell pitched a scoreless sixth for the Eagles, who did not commit an error while Westminster committed 8.
"Pitching and defense," Zorger said. "That's what generally has carried us. If we can do those things and stay focused, we'll be in the game."
Nine of Aurora Christian's 10 runs were unearned, but the Eagles put pressure on the Westminster defense with 9 hits against right-hander Frank Angiulo (0-1), who issued 2 walks and struck out 7 in 6 innings.
The Warriors remained within a swing of the lead until Aurora Christian broke the game open with a 6-run sixth inning that featured RBI singles by P.J. Cole, Cody Worst and Stephen Buhrt and a 2-run single by Jake Skala.
"I've been trying to take it more to the right side of the outfield, but I pulled the ball today and it worked out well," said Cole, who went 2-for-4 with 2 doubles and scored twice. Offensive leaders for the Eagles included Worst (3-for-4, 2 RBI), Drew Wagner (2-for-3, 2 runs) and Buhrt (2-for-4, 2 RBI, run).
The Warriors could not parlay Monday's quarterfinal upset of No. 5 St. Edward into another victory, but the program has much to look forward to with the entire varsity roster returning, minus ace pitcher Clay DeHaan.
"I really like the way things look with us losing only one guy." first-year Westminster coach Brance Rivera said. "Yes, Clay is our best guy, but we're bringing back the entire rest of the team and we've really had some freshmen and sophomores who stepped up in the second half of the season."
Luke Weston's double was the only extra basehit among Westminster's 5 knocks. Justin Rasmussen, Jarrett Mueller, Tyler Mamrot and Brendan Ruffolo also singled, and Ruffolo registered his team's only RBI.