The weather felt like June at Monday's Batavia-St. Charles North Upstate Eight clash, and the intensity, level of play and atmosphere certainly did too.
The Bulldogs and North Stars treated fans to a little playoff-like baseball in April in a matchup of Division I junior pitchers that St. Charles North pulled out 6-4 on Zach Fick's 2-out, 2-run single in the bottom of the sixth.
St. Charles North (10-2, 6-0) stayed undefeated in conference but not before quite a fight from Batavia (8-4, 3-4) who battled back from a 4-1 deficit.
"It's a fantastic atmosphere," Fick said. "It was like a playoff atmosphere and that's exactly what we need. It's great to get out here and know what that type of game feels like because we're not going to fold when it comes down to it when we're going for hardware at the end of the season."
Batavia threw its big righty Glenn Albanese (Louisville) against North Stars lefty Tyler Mettetal (South Carolina). It took only one batter for emotions to rise when Mettetal hit Jimmy Roach only for the umpire to rule Roach didn't try to get out of the way -- a call that would be made again at an even more crucial moment much to Batavia's ire.
The Bulldogs still grabbed a 1-0 lead in the inning on Luke Beckmann's single, stolen base and a 2-out bloop single to right field by Kyle Niemiec.
St. Charles North answered with 2 runs in the first. Brendan Joyce was hit by a pitch and John LeGare singled. Mettetal's sacrifice fly tied the game and LeGare scored on a passed ball.
The North Stars again got the leadoff man on in the second and third innings and scored both times for a 4-1 lead. Sam Faith singled to start the second and scored on Luke Corcoran's bunt, and LeGare singled in the third and scored on Zach Mettetal's fly ball.
Niemiec ignited Batavia's comeback with a long double to center in the fourth. He scored on Albanese's 2-out single.
The Bulldogs plated single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game at 4, both rallies without a hit. Tyler Munoz walked in the fifth, Jared Martin bunted courtesy runner Joe Burke to second, and he scored when the North Stars couldn't quite turn a double play on Beckman's grounder to second.
Mettetal left after 5 innings, and Niemiec, who was hit by a pitch leading off the sixth, eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Albanese nearly worked out of a second-and-third, no-out jam in the sixth until Fick drilled a first-pitch fastball up the middle to score Kyle Novotney and Zach Mettetal.
"That's what I was looking for," Fick said. "He had been throwing fastballs all day. I just wanted to hit something hard."
Christian Sidoti worked a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the win but not before some more controversy. Munoz was hit leading off the inning; the umpire again brought Munoz back, and Batavia coach Matt Holm was ejected arguing.
"Once in awhile you have to pull an Earl Weaver," Holm said. "I told the guys our thing is always going to be about battling. We're going to be the Battlin' Bulldogs. The only thing I can ask from them on a consistent basis daily is they battle, battle, battle. Sometimes your coach has to battle a little."
Sidoti fanned 3 in his 2 perfect innings of relief.
"I love it," the senior said of closing. "It really allows me just to go after hitters."
LeGare led the North Stars going 3-for-3 while Albanese didn't walk a batter in 6 innings.
"For us to be able to beat him (Albanese) twice in this young season I feel pretty good about that," North Stars coach Todd Genke said.
"I was happy to see him (Mettetal) in a tight game. Whenever you have adversity you get a true measure of your team. I give a lot of credit to Batavia, they kept coming at us, I knew they would, they always do. We had some adversity there and we were resilient."