Baseball: St. Charles North headed back to state
Coming off career victory No. 400, St. Charles North baseball coach Todd Genke much prefers win No. 401.
The North Stars will make their second state semifinal appearance since placing third in 2016 after beating Plainfield Central 8-1 Monday at the Class 4A Standard Bank Stadium supersectional in Crestwood.
"We've talked about it all season," said Genke, whose 400th win came in the sectional final. "We put 'Joliet' on a home plate and put it right outside of our dugout and said, 'That's our goal.'"
St. Charles North (28-10) will play St. Rita (34-6) in a Class 4A semifinal at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet at 3 p.m. Friday.
"We got there in 2016 and we kind of broke the glass ceiling. Now that we've been there it feels great to know that we can go back," Genke said.
St. Charles North pitcher Johnny Lambert did not allow a hit and struck out eight batters in 3⅔ innings of scoreless relief of starter Zach Kempe. Lambert, a sidewinding left-hander, improved to 6-0 on the season, all his wins in relief. John Hamer closed it out in the seventh.
"I just pitch to contact, and yeah, I get a few strikeouts, but I'm not looking to miss bats most of the time. I just want them to make plays in the field for us," said Lambert, whose older brother, Jack, was on the 2016 squad.
Plainfield Central (29-10) tied the game 1-1 in the top of the second inning but St. Charles North answered with a 5-run third inning.
After Mike Gattuso's one-out single Egon Hein tripled and Pat Bellock doubled him home.
Nick DeMarco walked ahead of Ryan Theisse, who blasted a hard grounder just inside of third base, going all the way to the outfield corner to allow Bellock and DeMarco to score.
Kevin White's sacrifice fly scored Theisse for the North Stars' 6-1 lead after three innings.
"Everyone was barreling up balls and getting ahead in counts and picking their own pitch," White said. "I think once we got the momentum started things just kind of came into place like a puzzle."
The North Stars led 8-1 after five innings on Kevin White's first-pitch single and a wild pitch that scored Thiesse.
"I went to state for football and I was itching to get the feeling back, so it's awesome," Hein said. "Especially with this group of guys. I don't think anyone expected us to go this far. The hard work and everything that we put in is finally paying off and we're proving everyone wrong."