Baseball: DeConcilis saves day, regional title for Lake Park
Left fielder Johnny DeConcilis took the big risk.
The Lake Park baseball team reaped the big reward.
The Lancers led South Elgin 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning of the Class 4A Schaumburg regional final at Boomers Stadium Saturday when Storm batter Ben Hetelle smacked a 3-2, bases-loaded pitch from reliever Jackson Kent to shallow left field.
DeConcilis, playing slightly in against the left-handed hitter, got a good break on the slicing, sinking line drive. The senior raced in and reached across his body as he made a diving catch that preserved the eventual 5-2 win.
The regional title is the fifth in seven seasons and 10th overall for No. 11 Lake Park (19-16).
"The catch in left field was the key," Lake Park coach Dan Colucci said. "If that ball gets by him, it's a tie game and you never know what's going to happen. DeConcilis coming in, having no fear and laying out for that one was just phenomenal."
DeConcilis wanted to be in the middle of the action.
"In my mind I was like 'just hit this ball to me. I want this ball. I want it so bad,'" he said. "I couldn't wait for that ball to get in my glove. I just took a chance. Honestly, I knew I had to lay out because it was bases loaded, two outs. I had to go for it. If that ball gets by me, a couple of runs (score). I took a chance and I made it."
The sparkling defensive play helped make a winner of starting pitcher Nic Aehlert (4-2). The junior right-hander finished with 9 strikeouts, 2 walks and a hit batsman. He limited No. 3 South Elgin (25-6), the Upstate Eight Conference champs, to 2 earned runs on 5 hits over 5⅔ innings.
"He was throwing strikes out there, pounding the zone, changing speeds, mixing in and out," said South Elgin senior Grant Baker. "He was effective. I applaud him. He did a great job."
Aehlert threw 70 of his 110 pitches for strikes.
"He commanded the strike zone and we had a hard time keeping up with him and putting the ball in play," South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. "We had our opportunity there at the end but the left-fielder makes a great catch."
Lake Park advances to a Glenbard West sectional semifinal at Village Green in Glen Ellyn on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against No. 2 St. Charles North. The North Stars defeated No. 10 Wheaton Warrenville South 5-2 in St. Charles Saturday.
Lake Park eliminated St. Charles North 3-2 in a 2018 regional final and went on to place third in Class 4A.
The North Stars swept the 3-game regular-season series between the DuKane Conference teams this spring.
Lake Park designated hitter Nick Abraham delivered the big hit against South Elgin. The Lancers led 2-0 in the sixth when the junior cleared the bases with a double to the left-field wall against South Elgin starting pitcher Logan Romasanta (3-2), who allowed 5 earned runs on 5 hits, walked a pair and struck out five.
"I felt nervous going up to the plate," said Abraham, a .294 hitter who entered the game with 5 doubles and 10 RBI. "All the thought left my mind and I just swung. Just like when we were little kids, just swinging away."
Kent struck out 3 and did not allow a hit or a walk in 1⅓ scoreless innings to earn the save.
South Elgin leadoff hitter Austin Doty singled twice in 2 at-bats, was hit by a pitch and stole a base. He finished with a team-best .419 batting average.
"My senior season was a blast," Doty said, his voice beginning to crack. "It was an amazing season overall. We got our 20-win season and we were successful. It just would have been nice to have pulled it out today."