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St. Charles North baseball nipped in low-scoring regional final

ELMHURST – The further a team advances in the postseason, the more likely a failure to execute fundamentals will stop that advancement, as the St. Charles North baseball team discovered Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Schaumburg at the IHSA Class 4A York Regional final.

A picked-off baserunner helped kill a possible rally by the North Stars (25-13) in the fifth inning and a couple of errors helped the Saxons (23-13) score the winning run an inning later.

“I’m just really disappointed in the fifth [inning],” North coach Todd Genke said. “We had first and second, nobody out, and can’t get a bunt down, and then get picked off of second. Those little things, we talk about them all the time, and they’re magnified in the playoffs when it’s one-and-done.”

A balk call against North starter Jake Johansmeier (4-3) in the fifth inning also hurt. It moved Schaumburg courtesy runner Justin Charvat from first to second with nobody out. A sacrifice bunt and a groundout brought Charvat home to tie the game.

“He said I didn’t step off [the rubber],” Johansmeier said of the home plate umpire's balk call. “I was on the edge of the rubber and if you saw where it was, you could see where my foot was and then I stepped back. You could clearly see that my cleat marks were right where I stepped back.”

The various miscues marred an otherwise outstanding effort by Johansmeier. He allowed four hits – all singles – walked one and struck out nine.

“Johansmeier threw great today,” Genke said. “We had one run on the board. It should have been enough to win.”

That run came in the third when Kurt Barbeau singled, stole second, and scored on Jake Smiley’s bloop double that fell just inside the left field line. It appeared Schaumburg left fielder Kedric Daly could have attempted to catch the ball, but he let it drop at his feet, apparently unsure what to do due to his proximity to the foul line.

That was the only dent the second-seeded North Stars could make in the armor of Saxon starter Pat Bellinger (8-4). The lanky senior right-hander went the distance, giving up just four hits while striking out nine. He threw 115 pitches, 76 for strikes.

“He threw two innings on Thursday [against York]” Genke noted. “I can’t believe that he was able to throw a complete game today. He was just a little bit better than Jake.”

Johansmeier is part of a host of seniors, including seven starters and outstanding hurler Carl Formento, that the North Stars lose to graduation.

“We had a tremendous group of seniors that I care about greatly,” Genke said. “They’re going to be very successful in their lives and I look forward to hearing about their successes. I just want to thank them publicly for all their efforts and all their hard work. I’m going to miss them.”

North senior Clayton Schmitt had the only extra-base hit of the game, a two-out double to the right-center gap in the sixth inning, but he was one of five runners stranded by Bellinger.

The victory by the 10th-seeded Saxons was part of a slew of upsets that have left only two of the top seven seeds in the Schaumburg Sectional standing.

“I think we feel like we’re way better than a 10th seed,” Bellinger said. “We were 13-11 when the seeds came out, but we’ve won maybe 13 of our last 14 games. If we would have won those games earlier, obviously we’d be right up there with [North]. I’d say we’re the toughest 10 seed out there.”

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