Baseball: Watson shuts down Geneva; vaults Batavia to regional final

Nearly after every inning, Jack Watson grew more animated walking off the mound after a key out.

Watson, the Batavia senior, simply "lives for this."

A roaring 'let's go' while viciously clapping his glove together communicates all it needs to. And, there was plenty of reasons to do so.

"Close games, both teams are in it the whole way," Watson began after his complete game, six hit and nine strikeout effort to defeat Geneva 2-0 in the Class 4A regional semifinal on Thursday. "It bumps up the energy 100%. I love it. I love it."

Watson tossed a no-hitter against Geneva back on May 4, then a five-inning, 11-strikeout masterpiece.

The North West Florida State College commit followed it up on Thursday with a complete game, nine-strikeout effort to vault the Bulldogs to Saturday's regional final vs. DuKane Conference foe St. Charles North at 10 a.m. in Geneva.

"I've always shown my emotions a little bit," Watson said. "This was a big game; this is a big win for us and we're just getting ready for Saturday."

"That's who Jack is," Batavia coach Alex Beckmann said. "He's a competitor. He hates to lose and loves to win, obviously. He pitched his butt off today and that first [playoff] game, sometimes, can be the toughest one, especially with these conditions today with wind blowing in ... We stuck with it and came out with [a big win]."

Batavia (17-16) grabbed their first run in the first inning after an RBI single from Ryan Boe off Geneva starter Bryce Breon, who went the distance and allowed four hits and three strikeouts.

Watson found himself in a number of jams, but the Bulldogs' defense held firm.

In the third inning, the Vikings (14-20) had a pair of leadoff singles to set the table for junior Nate Stempowski, one of the top players in the DuKane Conference. Watson forced a grounder for a double play and then Batavia second baseman Matthew Reksnis followed it up with a nifty scoop and throw to beat Tommy Maynard.

" ... Sometimes, you get them; sometimes you don't," Geneva coach Brad Wendell said. "A key situation. We had the right guy up, I thought, and we just didn't get it done today. We've had that a few times this year. It's one of those things hopefully you learn from it and you move on."

The Vikings again threatened in the fifth inning with a pair in scoring position, but Maynard popped out to left field. In the sixth, Geneva's Joey Cosentino grooved a single and advanced to second on a subsequent error, but Breon had a deep fly out to end the threat.

Batavia's second run came on an error with a runner on second. Vikings third baseman Roland Sorrentino airmailed a grounder to first, which allowed the insurance run to score. Watson grabbed his ninth strikeout to open the top half of the seventh and coaxed two grounders to secure the victory.

"The first time he pitched against us [earlier in May] he was lights out," Wendell said of Watson. " ... I think we were just ready to compete against him; good velocity, good stuff. Our kids battled and kept it in the strike zone."

The Bulldogs went 1-2 in the regular season series against St. Charles North. This time, however, anything can happen.

"It's going to be fun. We played three really close games," Beckmann said. "We took one, they took two, but they were really competitive games. I think we're similar type teams and it's going to be a lot of fun on Saturday for sure."

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