Baseball: Lobliner's blast caps St. Charles North's win
Jayden Lobliner's fist-pump as he approached second base in the moments following his towering three-run home run to center field put the capstone on a dominating St. Charles North performance.
Lobliner, a Kansas State recruit and North Stars catcher, was one of several bright spots for the North Stars in a 13-3, six-inning win over DuKane Conference leader St. Charles East in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday.
St. Charles East bounced back to win the second game, 6-3.
St. Charles North junior starting pitcher Anthony Estrada allowed only three runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out three, and benefitted from the North Stars' 16-hit attack in the opener.
"Every outing, he's improved," Lobliner said of Estrada. "Each and every time he goes out there, he just finds a way to get better. I think we've built a lot of trust together and it's just really kind of springboarded him into having a lot of phenomenal outings."
Estrada can offer a variety of pitches between a typical fastball, change-up and a curve.
"I just love the variety," Lobliner said. "He has confidence throwing off-speed, fastball in any count. It keeps guys off-balance and really just gets the job done."
Estrada, for his part, "let [his] fielders do their job."
"I put my faith in fielders and was just trying to throw strikes," Estrada said. "I struggled a little bit in the first inning [allowing an RBI sacrifice fly to Saints third baseman Jake Zitella]. After that, I got around. I was good and got my momentum going. Like I said, let my fielders do their job and do my job as well."
"He's definitely a competitor," North Stars coach Todd Genke said of Estrada. "We knew coming in that he was going to give us a good chance to win this first game and he had some big swings at the plate, too, so he's a complete player.
"He was able to throw his breaking ball for a strike, which is key," Genke continued. "[St. Charles East is] very aggressive at the plate, so having that ability to throw a breaking ball behind in the count or even ahead in the count, is really the key to pitching. I thought we played very well defensively."
The North Stars (13-9, 8-5) "came over here with a mission today."
"We've been scuffling a little bit, but they're atop the [DuKane] conference so it was a challenge," Genke said. "I challenged our guys yesterday. We had a really good workout yesterday and we came over here hungry."
The North Stars chased Saints starter Gavin Sitarz (six strikeouts) after 4 2/3 innings following Lobliner's RBI double to make it 7-2 North Stars. It capped a three-run inning that also included Will Vaske's bunt sneaking in for a single to allow Aidan O'Connell to reach home. Parker Reinke, who previously reached a bunt single of his own, snuck home on a late throw back from first for the two-run play.
St. Charles East rebounded a bit on Zitella's RBI double in the fifth, but St. Charles North added five in the sixth off Keegan Tracey. Reinke singled in a run, a second scored on Jackson Spring's sacrifice fly and Lobliner slugged his three-run homer for the 13-3 lead.
Following Estrada's exit, North Stars senior Jason Corrigan struck out Eddie Herrera and Ian Paprocki to close the job in game one.
St. Charles East (15-3-1, 12-2), meanwhile, committed five team errors in the loss.
"We'll find out what kind of bounce they'll have back in [game two]," St. Charles East coach Len Asquini said. "We just absolutely got outplayed in all phases of the game this first game, so we're hoping, obviously, that doesn't happen in the second. But, [St. Charles North] put a nice game together. They took advantage of some of our mistakes and wonderful for them to expose us. It's our job to bounce back and eliminate that."
"We gave them a lot of free 90s [walks, steals]. Boy, did we give them a lot of free 90s today to help spark their offense," Asquini said. "Then, they took advantage of that, too. We couldn't get a lot of the big outs when we needed."