Baseball: West Aurora evens series with South Elgin
West Aurora senior first baseman Alex Diaz needed a bounce-back game like Tuesday's 7-5, eight-inning win at South Elgin.
So did his Blackhawks.
Upstate Eight Conference leader South Elgin opened 10-plus innings of action by first winning the continuation of Monday's suspended Upstate Eight Conference series opener 6-3.
The Storm led 4-2 in the top of the fifth when play resumed. Garrett Wano's single keyed a 2-run sixth-inning, and South Elgin reliever Grant Baker got Diaz to end it by inducing a line drive to center field with runners on first and second.
The loss dropped the Blackhawks 2 game behind the Storm in the loss column midway through the 27-game UEC schedule.
An 0-for-3 performance with 2 strikeouts for Diaz meant his batting average slipped closer to .200.
West Aurora's No. 9 hitter would find redemption in the nightcap.
Diaz stepped to the plate against reliever Patrick Keaty in the eighth inning with no outs and a runner on third base, thanks to a South Elgin infield error and a passed ball.
Diaz tomahawked a high, first-pitch fastball, for a line-drive single that drove in the winning run and allowed him to exhale.
"That does feel pretty good," Diaz said. "Hopefully, that's a turnaround for me and gets the season going now."
Reliever Kyler Scroggins (4-0) allowed 1 hit and struck out 3 in 2 scoreless innings to earn a win that kept West Aurora (14-5-1, 10-3-1) within a game in the loss column of South Elgin (13-3, 11-2).
"We didn't want to take another loss from South Elgin after the first game," Scroggins said. "We wanted to show we can win, and we want to come back and win the third one."
South Elgin took a 5-4, sixth-inning lead when Cody Gallagher hit a one-out sacrifice fly to score courtesy runner Griffin Allen.
West Aurora forged a 5-5 tie in the seventh. With runners at first and third and one out, South Elgin coach Jim Kating turned to shortstop Keaty to close the ballgame on the mound.
Keaty got what he was looking for: a two-hop double-play ball to shortstop. However, the South Elgin second baseman double-clutched on the relay throw, allowing Adrian Ruiz to reach safely as the tying run scored.
Technically, it wasn't an error for South Elgin. The Storm made 3 of those, leading to 3 unearned runs.
"We couldn't turn a double play," Kating said. "We had opportunities to shut things down and do that but (Diaz) came through. We just came up short.
"We're learning from this. We need this. We need these types of games. This is a testing point to see where we are so far and I like how the kids have been resilient. We just made mistakes and they took advantage of them."
West Aurora starting pitcher Jake Smith lasted 6 innings. He allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and struck out 3 without a walk.
Ben Hetelle, Wano and Baker each had 2 hits for South Elgin, which travels to Aurora for the series finale Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.