Nobody said it would be easy.
Batavia, which earned the top seed in the Schaumburg Class 4A baseball sectional, faced the brink of elimination after 15th-seeded Bartlett (14-17) grabbed a 4-2 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning during Wednesday's regional semifinal clash in Elmhurst.
However, the Battlin' Bulldogs lived up to their moniker, clawing within 4-3 on a 1-out fielder's choice grounder off the bat of Jeremy Schoessling.
After Schoessling took second on a delayed steal, senior Micah Coffey (2-for-4) laced a clutch RBI double down the first-base line on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game at 4-4.
In the bottom of the 10th, Laren Eustace sliced a 1-out ground-rule double to left and took third on a groundout. Following an intentional walk to Coffey, Eustace raced home with the game-winning run on a wild pitch as the Bulldogs escaped with a dramatic 5-4 extra-inning victory.
"At first, I didn't see it," Eustace said of reliever Doug VanDyke's first pitch to Jacob Piechota. "Coach (Holm) told me to go."
Eustace, the Bulldogs' fastest player, barely eluded VanDyke's tag with a head-first slide into home.
"If I had slid directly on the base, I probably would have been out," said Eustace.
"It (the ball) went straight back from the catcher and we couldn't see it," said Holm. "We were just listening to the dugout. When the pitcher broke (for home), Laren just took off to try to beat him. That was a perfect slide to the outside."
With the win, Batavia advances to Saturday's York regional championship game against either the host Dukes or Willowbrook.
"It was a great game," said Holm. "It is one of those games where you hate to see a loser. I'm glad we're on the top side of it. I've asked these guys to do one thing this year and that's compete. They never gave up."
The Bulldogs were down to their last strike before Coffey's 8th-inning heroics.
"I was just trying to be relaxed in the box and keep my same approach," said Coffey. "There's nothing different about hitting a baseball. I've prepared myself for this situation."
Bartlett nearly took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 10th on VanDyke's 2-out single but Bulldogs left fielder Reagan McReynolds nailed Jordan Flint at the plate with a perfect throw to catcher Dino Simoncelli.
The game began ominously for the Hawks after the Bulldogs' first 4 batters reached base, keyed by Coffey's 2-run single for a 2-0 lead.
However, the Hawks refused to quit, tying the game with a pair of sixth-inning runs thanks to RBI singles from Jake Barrutia and Cal Fanselow.
Meanwhile, sophomore starting pitcher Joey Roberson escaped a few more early threats and blanked the Bulldogs for the next 6 innings. "He showed signs of a sophomore at times in that first inning -- as he is a sophomore -- but after he got over that hump, he settled in and began to ride his rhythm," Hawks coach Chris Pemberton said of Roberson. "He showed maturity way beyond his years with the rest of his outing."
Bartlett took its first lead of the game in the eighth. After back-to-back singles from Barrutia and Flint and Cory Krolikowski's sacrifice bunt, Barrutia beat Simoncelli's tag at the plate on Fanselow's squeeze bunt.
Roberson's RBI infield hit upped the Hawks' lead to 4-2, setting the stage for a wild bottom half of the frame before the Bulldogs finally prevailed.
"I think we used the word classic a couple of times," said Pemberton. "It was back and forth. Everything imaginable happened and that's sometimes the cruel part about baseball.
"We've been talking since last March about having to play a team game all year and today we did that. It's a testament to our guys. We took the No. 1 seed to the brink."
Junior Evan Acosta (7-1) tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief to pick up the victory for the Bulldogs, who stretched their winning streak to 21.