Lake Park senior pitcher Rhett Rapshus has been the tough-luck kid throughout much of the baseball season.
However, the hard-throwing right-hander found himself on the other side of the ledger during Thursday's Class 4A regional semifinal clash against Geneva.
Rapshus (3-6), who will attend Black Hawk College next season, tossed a 2-hit complete game to lift the 12th-seeded Lancers (13-22) to a 4-3 victory over the fifth-seeded Vikings in Roselle.
"As the innings wear on, you get pumped up by your team," said Rapshus, who retired the final 7 batters he faced during a 99-pitch outing. "You see the innings and the outs counting down and from that point it's all adrenaline."
Lake Park built a 3-0 lead in the second with 3 consecutive RBI singles from Colin Fowich, Gunnar Barlund and Zach Zimmerman before the Vikings fought back with 3 runs of their own in the third without hitting a ball out of the infield.
Nick Fitzmaurice reached on an error to lead off the inning and Garrett Davis coaxed a 1-out walk before Alex Lobrillo was hit by a pitch to load the bases with 2 out.
Senior Ben Chally drove in the Vikings' first run with an infield single, Jack Wassel walked to force in another run to make it 3-2 and Nate Montgomery reached on a throwing error to tie the game at 3-3.
"The one inning he (Rapshus) struggled a little bit, he was a little amped up and walked a couple and hit a guy," said Lancers coach Dan Colucci. "We were lucky getting out of that inning with 3 (runs) to tell you the truth.
"He did settle down quite nice after that (facing just 13 batters over the final 4 innings)," added Colucci. "I was really happy with the way he threw today."
Lake Park scored the eventual game-winning run in the fifth on 4 walks, including Barlund's 2-out bases-loaded free pass.
"When you're 12-22, you take it any way you can get it," said Colucci, whose team advances to Saturday's regional championship game against 13th-seeded West Chicago. "I keep telling these guys that we basically found 22 ways to lose ballgames this season. We came in here with the mentality that our record is 0-0. The pressure is on other teams because we're playing higher seeded teams."
Designated hitter Ken Schutz had 2 of the Lancers' 6 base hits against 4 different Geneva pitchers -- Bret Reed, Max Novak, Jack McCloughan and Mitchell Merges.
"It's not necessarily the best team that wins but the team that plays best," said Colucci. "In the playoffs, it's just get to the next game -- that's the goal. We're just going to try and play our best baseball the rest of the way."
Playing without injured sophomore shortstop Nick Derr (broken finger), the Vikings finished their season with a record of 20-15 as they reached the 20-win mark for the 9th time in 10 seasons.
"They're very good," Geneva coach Matt Hahn said of the Lancers. "They're well-coached and they play in the DVC. We knew this wasn't a true 12 seed.
"We competed," added Hahn. "We've been battling injuries all year and just 5 of the 25 guys on our bench today were seniors. We've got 20 guys that are potentially coming back next year."
Hahn, whose 12-year-old son, Drew, was diagnosed with anaplastic large-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma in March, offered words of thanks to his baseball family after the game.
"The way they rallied me personally this year -- the families, the boys -- they understood when I wasn't around," said Hahn. "Beyond the wins and losses, I'll remember them for the way they rallied around me and my family."