Baseball: Torres' heads-up play lifts St. Charles North over Geneva
Blanked by St. Charles North pitchers Zach Kempe and Johnny Lambert for six innings, Geneva's baseball team refused to quit down the stretch during Wednesday's Class 4A regional semifinal clash.
The 14th-seeded Vikings (15-19-1) pushed a run across on Jackson Chase's bases-loaded walk to narrow the deficit to 3-1 before one of baseball's crazier plays occurred.
Ryan Stempowski hit a grounder to the left side of the infield but the ensuing throw home sailed over the head of sophomore catcher Marco Torres, allowing courtesy runner Ryan Decker to score and make it 3-2.
Torres, however, raced to the brick wall backstop, scooped up the ball and threw it to pitcher Nick DeMarco covering home, who tagged the potential tying runner out at the plate.
Five pitches later, DeMarco recorded the game-clinching strikeout to preserve the 2nd-seeded North Stars' 3-2 victory in St. Charles.
"It was a great high school baseball game," said North Stars coach Todd Genke, whose team (24-10) advances to face either Glenbard East or Wheaton Warrenville South in Saturday's regional championship.
"I'm not a bit surprised -- Geneva is a quality program and plays in a quality conference. They didn't quit."
Torres' heads-up play helped save the game for the DuKane Conference champions.
"We work on that play a lot," said Genke. "You want to see him make that play in a game but to make it in that situation at that time is a credit to him and how hard he has worked.
"It's chaos at that point."
"I saw the ball and I ran to it," said Torres. "I knew what I had to do. It hit off the wall and came right back to me. I saw Nick (DeMarco) there and I'm like, 'he's going to make that play no matter what.'"
Reflecting on the play, Geneva coach Brad Wendell felt he made the right decision.
"With DeMarco on the mound, how many chances are you going to get?" he said. "It bounces off the wall right back to the kid (Torres). If it goes left, right or hits the net, it's a whole different story. It's a tie game and maybe we take the lead or go extra innings."
Sophomore starting pitcher Kempe recorded the win, tossing 4 scoreless innings while allowing a pair of hits and 3 walks with 4 strikeouts before giving way to southpaw reliever Lambert (2 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 2 Ks) and DeMarco.
"He (Kempe) had a really good outing against them last time and we just felt like he was the guy," said Genke. "His pitch count was up a little but he stepped up as a sophomore."
Michael Gattuso's leadoff home run in the bottom of the first gave the North Stars a 1-0 lead before Patrick Bellock's 2-out, 2-run single in the 4th extended the margin to 3-0.
Senior left-hander Blake Breon kept the Vikings in the game, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits during a 103-pitch outing that included 5 walks and 5 strikeouts.
"He battled -- that's all we can ask him to do," said Wendell. "He has done that all year for us.
"We knew they were good and we competed all the way to the end."