Baseball: Pachla’s gem sends Crystal Lake South into regional final vs. Wauconda

Crystal Lake South players are as thrilled when Mark Pachla steps on the mound as their opponents are frustrated.

Gator defenders know they will have balls hit at them – often not with much solid contact – so there will be plays to make. And Pachla usually gets them home in decent time for dinner.

Opponents, on the other hand, see that Pachla is not a hard thrower and think they are going to tee off on the junior righthander.

Usually, some 90 pitches and a few sparse hits later, South has a victory.

It was that way again Thursday as Pachla fired a two-hit, 89-pitch gem to beat Lake Forest 4-1 in their Class 3A Crystal Lake South regional baseball semifinal at The Swamp.

“I did what I normally do, throw strikes and trust my defense,” said Pachla, who is 8-0 with a 1.34 ERA. “I got a great defense behind me.

“My curveball worked really well, they didn’t like that one. I struck out a lot of guys on that one. They looked at it a lot, first-pitch strikes, curveball, they didn’t like that one either.”

No. 8-seeded South (20-13) meets No. 1 Wauconda (22-10) at 10 a.m. Saturday in the championship game. No. 9 Lake Forest finished its season 15-17.

“Always lights out,” Gators designated hitter Dayton Murphy said of Pachla. “All you have to do in high school baseball is throw strikes. Walks always kill teams. If you throw strikes, people will make plays for you, that’s all that matters. He’s done a great job of that every single time.”

South’s only error led to an unearned run in the first for the Scouts. Only one other runner reached third the rest of the game.

“That’s what he’s done on the mound all year,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “He’s 8-0, five complete games. I can’t talk enough about him. He does a great job mixing speeds and throwing three pitches for strikes.

“It’s pretty much what he did to Jacobs, what he did to Huntley, what he did to McHenry, and those are terrific programs in our (Fox Valley) conference.”

Lake Forest’s Collin Sinclair led off the fourth with a double off the center-field wall, but Pachla retired the next three batters on two called third strikes and a fly ball.

Murphy, who has missed six weeks at shortstop with a sore shoulder, still leads off as designated hitter and was 3 for 3 with two runs. Freshman Carson Trivellini, who replaced Murphy at shortstop, was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

Catcher Tony Amici walked to lead off the third and Murphy laced an 0-2 single to right field. Trivellini singled to left field with one out and Bogda sent courtesy runner Drew Watson home to tie the score. Liam Sullivan then scored Murphy on a sacrifice fly.

The Gators took advantage of a Lake Forest error in the fifth to score Murphy. South added a run in the sixth when Xander Shevchenko walked, stole second on a wild pitch and kept going to third, then scored on an overthow to third.

Scouts pitcher Callum Morrison was tough, allowing seven hits and two earned runs while striking out five.

“(Morrison) pitched great. They had maybe two hard-hit balls all day,” Scouts coach Mike Nilles said. “They have a bloop single and a couple of infield hits. He kept them off-balance really well and made big pitches when he needed to. They just found some grass when we couldn’t.

“We were expecting a big game after the first inning. He did a great job locating his pitches. We were anticipating pulling balls and trying to go deep on him because of the velocity that he brought. They put the right guy on the mound today for a reason. The confidence he had on the mound and his location, he did a great job.”

South will be looking for its third consecutive regional title when it meets the Bulldogs Saturday.

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