With the way the pitching was going in Thursday's Class 4A baseball regional semifinal at St. Charles North between Glenbard West and Glenbard North, it would have been difficult not to believe the game would be decided by one play.
And it was.
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With two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Glenbard North freshman pinch-hitter Zach Heck connected on a hit that was perfectly placed into right field just beyond the infielders. It brought home Nolan Jasinski, who had reached on a fielder's choice as part of an attempted double play, and the Panthers were 2-1 winners.
Glenbard North (20-14), a sixth seed in the Schaumburg sectional, takes on third-seeded St. Charles North in the regional final at 11 a.m. Satuday. The teams have not faced each other yet this season.
"Being a freshman, I was kind of nervous. I was just trying to stick with what I do best," Heck, a call-up from the sophomore team, said.
Going into the seventh, the Panthers had just three hits and coach Rich Smelko was looking to give a boost to his lineup. Heck was called to the plate.
"We struggled at the plate today and we were looking for some kind of spark and Zach was able to give it to us," he said.
But also big were the starting pitchers for both teams. Winning pitcher Matt Albin allowed just 4 hits and struck out 5. He retired the side in order during three innings and allowed just one baserunner during three innings as well.
In addition to Glenbard West starting pitcher Grant Greeno allowing just three hits over seven innings, he struck out nine and allowed just one earned run.
"It was two great arms. Unfortunately, it did not work out our way. Grant battled his heart out. He competed. He's a phenomenal kid," said Hilltoppers coach Andy Schultz, who finished his first year at the helm.
The Panthers struck first in the bottom of the third when Jim Krippinger led off with a walk, moved to second on Eric Orze's sacrifice bunt and then finished his trip around the bases on two consecutive throwing errors.
The 11th-seeded Hilltoppers (17-17) tied the game in the top of the sixth. With one out Hayden Carlson reached on a bunt, then stole second. Then Will Simoneit converted an 0-2 pitch into a single to left to score Carlson.
"We were fortunate to get that one key hit and Zach came through. We battled for the full seven and live to play another day," Smelko said.
Schultz praised his first Glenbard West squad.
"I couldn't have walked into a better group of players. We had 16 seniors. Like most teams, we had our ups and downs. The guys played hard and had a great attitude," he said.