South Elgin is making playoff baseball look easy.
The Storm scored 7 runs in the first two innings against No. 3 St. Charles North and elite right-hander Ryan Nutof limited the North Stars to an unearned run on 3 hits and struck out 9 in a complete-game victory in a Class 4A Schaumburg sectional semifinal Thursday.
No. 10 South Elgin has outscored three playoff opponents 31-1.
"We're the hottest team around," said Storm center fielder Nick Menken, who went 2-for-4, drove in a run and scored twice. "We kind of like that 10 seed we got. A little motivation to keep us going. We're hot right now and that's what you need to be -- hot at the right time."
South Elgin (22-10) advances to the sectional final against Upstate Eight River champion and No. 1 seed Batavia (32-3-1) on Saturday at noon.
The Storm jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Nutof hammered a fastball from Frankie Farry (5-4) the opposite way over the fence in right center, scoring Jared Kramer, who drew a walk.
"I wanted that ball in," St. Charles North coach Todd Genke said. "Unfortunately, we left it out over the plate and he hit it."
Nutof hasn't missed a mistake pitch in over a month. Since May 3, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior has raised his batting average from .217 to .317 and swatted 4 home runs.
"I was sitting fastball and he threw it to me and I just jumped on it right away," Nutof said. "I kind of knew what (Farry) had and I knew any tricks he had up his sleeve so I wasn't really fooled by anything."
The Storm scored 3 first-inning runs on 5 hits, including Antonio Danesi's run-scoring single. They added 4 more in the second inning on 4 knocks, highlighted by RBI singles from Menken and Dan Asa and Danesi's RBI double to the left-field wall.
St. Charles North (23-13) didn't help itself by committing errors in each inning behind Farry. He was lifted after allowing 7 runs on 7 hits in 1⅓ innings. Reliever Sam Hubbe pitched well in relief. He held the Storm to a run on 4 hits over 4⅔ innings but the damage was done.
"I thought Frank actually did a nice job other than the ball he left over the plate to Nutof," Genke said. "I thought he got us groundballs and we needed to make those plays. And we had been making them up this point. It was unfortunate. We came over here and we were prepared. We just didn't play well. And we had been playing so well up to this point."
South Elgin's 7-0 lead was an embarrassment of riches with Nutof on the mound. After allowing hits in each of the first two innings, he struck out 6 of 7 hitters in one stretch and did not allow another single until the seventh, when Zach Mettetal singled and Nick Drawant scored, thanks to wild throw from the outfield that sailed out of play.
"The first four innings or so my curveball was on and off," said Nutof, who said he expects to be selected anywhere between the third and 10th rounds of Major League Baseball's first-year player draft Friday. "Then the last couple of innings it started clicking so I could be more of a dynamic pitcher and fool them a little bit more."
The North Stars walked away with heads held high after winning 23 games and the fourth regional title in school history.
"I'm really proud of what we did this year," Genke said. "We talk about hanging numbers and how important that is to the program, and we were able to do that by winning a regional championship. I'm so proud of my seniors and proud of our team."
South Elgin turns its attention to top seed Batavia. The Storm lost 6-0 to the Bulldogs on April 18, when Colby Green threw a no-hitter. Green is available to pitch Saturday on full rest.
"Tough team, tough team," South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. "They won their division and they didn't get the No. 1 seed for nothing.
"It's going to be a very hard challenge to get after them and beat them. (Green) threw a no-hitter, but from a coaching standpoint I will tell you that we hit the ball very well. We lined out a lot and they made plays."