Baseball: Aurora Christian tops Harvest Christian for 1A sectional title

 
By Scott Miller
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/26/2018 5:51 PM
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The bitter taste left from last year's crushing defeat in the sectional finals on a walk-off home run in the ninth inning has finally been replaced by the sweet flavor of redemption for the Aurora Christian baseball team.

On Saturday the Eagles rallied late from a 4-1 deficit to capture their first sectional title since 2009 with an 8-4 win over Harvest Christian at Judson University in Elgin. The victory was also the 30th of the year for Aurora Christian, which breaks a school record.

The Eagles (30-2) will take on Forreston at noon on Monday in the Benedictine University supersectional in Lisle.

"This feels a whole lot better than last year," Aurora Christian coach Andy Zorger said. "I am so happy for these kids. They just stuck with it. We couldn't get the big hit early on and fell behind. But we kept believing. We have been in that position before this year, so we knew what we had to do. We just stayed relaxed and kept working the counts."

The Eagles trailed 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, but rallied for 4 runs to pull ahead 5-4. MJ Stavola was hit by a pitch and Sam Tickel followed with a double to start the inning. Stavola scored on a ground ball by Jake Kuntzendorf and Tickel came home on an RBI single by Clark Turek (2-for-4, 3 RBI) to cut the margin to 4-3. One out later Trey Madsen reached on a single. That set the stage for Hunter Thompson.

Following a wild pitch that put runners on second and third base Thompson drove a two-out opposite field single to right field that scored both runners and gave the Eagles a 5-4 lead.

"We were not folding," Thompson said. "We don't fold under pressure. Just the hype of wanting to win kept us going. We just kept battling. We felt like we were getting to their pitcher. I was just trying to push it the other way and get those runners in. This feels amazing compared to last year."

The Eagles tacked on 3 more insurance runs for good measure. Turek delivered the big blow with a 2-run double. Zach Zavasnik followed with an RBI double.

"Last year we didn't execute to bring in those extra runs that could have made the difference," Turek said. "This year we did anything we could to get those extra runs. Early on we were swinging too big, but we've been here before. We knew what we had to do. We started shortening our swings and taking the ball to the opposite field."

Aurora Christian starting pitcher Eric Hernandez went 5 innings to pick up the win. He surrendered 4 runs, only 2 were earned. Kuntzendorf came on in relief to retire the final 6 batters in order to pick up the save.

Harvest Christian finishes the season with a record of 25-8. Joey Pepper had an RBI double for the Lions.

"Our baseball program is only in its fourth year and it continues to grow," Harvest coach David Lockwood said. "We have six seniors on this team who have left a great legacy with three straight regional titles. We are really going to miss them but we also have a strong group of juniors and younger players who are eager to step up. So we expect to be right back here next year."

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