Baseball: Lake Park blows out St. Charles North in sectional final
Lake Park senior shortstop Chris Worcester made a prediction to teammate Anthony Monacelli about Friday's Class 4A sectional championship game, certainly not one many saw coming.
Not when the matchup featured the No. 1 seeded Lancers vs. No. 2 St. Charles North, the teams a combined 59-7 -- and 56-4 if you take out the three times they had beat each other.
"Two days ago I told my friend I thought it would be lopsided game," Worcester said.
However unlikely that appeared to be, the Eastern Illinois recruit turned out to be spot on. Lake Park scored 6 runs in the first inning, added on in the next three innings and won the sectional title in 4 1/2 innings, 12-2.
Worcester had a couple reasons to be so confident. One was his team's starting pitcher, ace Jackson Kent. Lake Park also was playing on its home field, now 23-0, and in front of another huge crowd in Roselle.
"With Jackson on the mound I have all the confidence in the world," Worcester said. "I thought that was what would happen and that's what happened. We needed to put up a zero and then get some runs and that's what we did."
Lake Park, who won its first sectional in 2018 on the way to finishing third in state, will play New Trier at 7 p.m. Monday in the Triton supersectional.
After coming from behind in their first three postseason wins, Lake Park (31-4) wanted to play with the lead. Kent walked Nick DeMarco in the first before the Lancers turned a 6-4-3 double play, and they quickly got to North Stars starter Eric Lee in the bottom half.
Worcester singled in the first run, then Kent blasted a 3-run home to right field -- his fifth -- to make it 4-0.
"He hung a curve ball and I let it rip," said Kent, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit.
St. Charles North (29-4) was its own worst enemy as the inning went on. An error, walk and back-to-back hit batters made it 5-0, and a sixth run scored on Mason Baer's infield single.
"I'm still in shock at how poorly we played," said North Stars coach Todd Genke. "We made some uncharacteristic mistakes. We have 8 all-conference players on the field and at some point you have to get out of that inning and we just couldn't get out of that first inning for whatever reason. And it just kind of snowballed from there."
Indeed it did, with Thomas Klco's sacrifice fly making it 7-0 in the second, and his 2-run opposite field single pushing the lead to 11-0 in the third.
That was enough for Lancers coach Dan Colucci to pull Kent (7-0) after his 3 scoreless innings. Worcester and Kolby Keatts teamed up to pitch the final 2 innings.
"It was a gamble but when you are up 11 runs it's a gamble you have to take," said Colucci, adding he might use Kent to close Monday's super.
Worcester went 3-for-3, scored all 3 times and drove in 2. Kent had 2 hits, and he and Klco both had 3 RBI.
The bottom of the order did their job, getting hit by a pitch five times. No. 9 hitter Nick Wolf was hit twice and walked; No. 8 hitter Max Baer doubled and also was hit twice.
"We have pride in that one through nine can do their jobs. We don't have a glaring soft spot in our lineup," said Colucci, who has been coaching at Lake Park since 1999 and called this his most complete team.
The North Stars, who saw their 15-game winning streak snapped, graduate a senior class that included several key players from the 2019 state runners-up.
Three of St. Charles North's four losses this year came to the Lancers; playing a 10-inning semifinal game against Geneva on Wednesday also limited pitching options.
"They were kind of our kryptonite," Genke said of the Lancers. "I was anticipating a much better game. We have a great group of seniors. It's hard to say goodbye to them."