Baseball: D'Andrea, St. Charles East slam Batavia
One by one, Dylan D'Andrea's teammates piled batting gloves, rolls of tape, mitts and anything else they could find on top of his head.
D'Andrea, St. Charles East's junior third baseman, wasn't even totally sure why as his postgame interview rolled on.
D'Andrea certainly had plenty to smile about after smacking a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning to rally St. Charles East to a 14-10 win over Batavia in a matchup of DuKane Conference leaders on Tuesday.
"That's a very good question," D'Andrea said when asked why he was being decorated. "To be honest with you, I think I'm just like that."
For the Saints (16-4-1, 12-3), the barnburner of a win came at an opportune time just a day removed from losing in walk-off fashion to St. Charles North and still holding their spot atop the DuKane Conference with the series-opening win.
"All I got to say is it's a team effort," D'Andrea said. "We're just having fun. Look at us [motioning his teammates surrounding him], we're out here. We're just having fun out here."
D'Andrea, who was 2-for-4 with a two-run single in the second, a grand slam in the sixth and a strikeout, appeared to particularly relish in his big, momentum-shifting swing.
It took a long while to arrive at the moment, however.
Batavia (14-7-1, 11-4) took a 3-0 lead in the first on an RBI groundout by Kevin Niedzwiedz and Eric Gonzalez's two-run home run. D'Andrea responded with a two-run single in the second, and Carter Laskowski's two-run shot in the fourth gave the Saints their first lead, 4-3.
The Saints then quickly trailed 8-4 in the fourth inning after Niedzwiedz was walked with the bases loaded to bring home Charlie Saul. Gonzalez followed with a three-run double and Austin Winslow hit an RBI double off relief pitcher AJ Gaca, who typically catches, as part of a five-run inning.
Batavia starter Eric Newberry followed in a tough sequence on the mound with two outs in the fifth.
James Brennan doubled and Carter Laskowski reached on an error by Newberry when a pop up on the infield fell cleanly, allowing Brennan to reach home to cut the Batavia lead to three. Brett Webbe and D'Andrea both walked to load the bases for the Saints.
Eddie Herrera worked a 2-2 count. Newberry's next offering of an apparent strike was called a ball to load the count. Newberry then bounced back to get a third swinging strike of Herrera to get out of the jam.
"[Newberry] had some tough jams he was put in and he worked his way out and [if] we make a couple more plays behind him, it might be a different story," Batavia coach Alex Beckmann said of his starter, who went five innings and struck out six.
In the sixth, Newberry was replaced by Blake Sotir to protect the three-run Bulldogs lead. After striking out Clay Jensen, Dom LeBlanc walked and later stole second. Seth Winkler reached on a dropped third strike, putting Leblanc at third. The Saints cashed in on an RBI groundout by Gaca to pull within two.
Brennan (5-for-5) hit an RBI single. With the bases loaded, D'Andrea launched one to left-center for the stunning 11-8 St. Charles East lead.
"I'm just having fun," D'Andrea said. "It's the game of baseball. I tell all my teammates here to just have fun. At the end of the day, that's all it is."
Batavia got back two runs on a pair of sacrifice flies from Gonzalez and Winslow, but the Saints tacked on three runs in the seventh on another RBI single from Brennan, a wild pitch to score Winkler from third and a fielder's choice to bring in Mike Sharko to stave off any more of a rally.
"A gutsy performance by all our guys," Saints coach Len Asquini said. "We're thin on the mound; we're sending guys out there that haven't done much throwing at all. AJ hasn't thrown at all. That was Clay [Jensen's] first time on the mound [in the fourth]. [Starter] Jake [Liska] has got limited innings for us this year and [Tanner] Dunfee, he hasn't thrown in a game in two weeks. This is a really gutsy performance by the kids on the mound."