Surging Barrington in Legion state finals
After picking up the pitching win Wednesday night, Barrington's Scott Nelson used his bat on Friday to help his team advance to today's finals of the Illinois American Legion state finals.
Nelson turned a 10-pitch at-bat into an RBI double in the sixth inning to help spark a 2-run outburst as Barrington Post 158 topped Galesburg Post 285, 4-2, on Friday afternoon at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights.
Barrington (40-7), which has now won 14 in a row and 32 of its last 33 games, will play Galesburg (defeated Fairview Heights 16-11 on Friday night) in the finals of the double elimination tournament at 11 a.m. today.
Should Barrington lose its first game on Saturday, it would play Galesburg again at 3 p.m. to decide the state championship on Lloyd Meyer Field.
Because of a quirk in the Midwest regional, both teams will advance to Terre Haute next Wednesday.
"Our pitching was good enough to get it done today," said Barrington coach Nate Gray. "The win is awesome. But we want to take care of state first before we go to Indiana. We have one more game (today)."
Nelson turned the tables in the sixth inning.
With runners on first and second, he had a 1-2 count and began to foul pitches off. He worked the count to 3-2 before lining a double down the line, scoring Cole Weber who had walked.
"I was hitting the ball well today," said Nelson, who had 2 hits for the game. "I saw a lot of pitches I didn't want to hit. But I was able to stay on it and foul it off. Finally on the tenth pitch, I got a good pitch to hit and I got a good hit out of it."
Jake Petersen followed with a sharp single to right to put Barrington up 4-1.
Quentin Sefcik, who pitched two innings on Wednesday, kept Galesburg Post 285 in check through six innings.
He escaped huge damage in the sixth when he loaded bases with walks with two outs.
But he got a soft fly to center to end the threat.
"With one day's rest I just felt OK," Sefcik said. "I just had to fight through it."
Sefcik allowed a leadoff single to start the seventh.
Ahern Ludwig, who went seven innings on Wednesday, pitched to the next two batters, allowing a run-scoring single as Galesburg closed to 4-2.
Jack Covek then came in and shut the door on Galesburg.
He retired the next seven batters in a row. After an infield single, he got an easy groundout to first baseman Jake Coon to end the game.
"I wanted to get out there real bad," Covek said. "This is the best I felt all year. I had my curve ball and fastball working for me."
Gray said Covek has prepared for this all season.
"He worked in these situations all summer long," Gray said. "I knew he would come through for us."
Barrington score its first run in the third when Mitch Pfeiffer singled home Anthony Lombardi, who reached on an error. Barrington added to its lead when Petersen, who had singled to lead off the inning, went to third on Dan Kubiuk's single and scored on Jared Ludwig's sacrifice fly.
Fairview Hts. 6, Northwest 5: Northwest Legion Post 690 saw its title hopes end as Fairview Heights rallied for 2 runs in the bottom of the eighth to overcome a 5-4 deficit.
Northwest (25-9-1) trailed 4-0 into the sixth when it rallied for 5 runs.
Josh Bergbreiter and Pat O'Malley had RBI singles while Jack Holden belted a 2-run double and Adam O'Malley had an RBI double.
Protests: After deliberating overnight, Legion baseball chairman Don Wallis ruled that no other players would be ruled ineligible for the tournament.
On Wednesday, Wallis, who is from Belleville, ruled that Arlington shortstop Jake Cavaini could not play because Cavaini had played for Prospect High School in the Illinois state high school summer tournament at the same time as the Legion Cook County tournament.
There were numerous players from other Legion teams who were thought to have played either high school or travel baseball during that period, but Wallis ruled that those players were eligible and could play.
Tournament Director and Arlington assistant coach Dennis Drolet was disappointed that Cavaini, who has played for the Arlington Legion team for three years, was singled out.
"The current American Legion baseball eligibility rules and its senior leadership team needs a complete overhaul," Drolet said. "Forcing a 17-year old young man to decide between playing for his high school team versus his local American Legion team is absurd."