GENEVA – Sometimes, putting the bat on the ball is enough.
The St. Charles East baseball team managed to do so against a tough pitcher in the seventh inning Thursday, and the Saints were rewarded with a two-run rally that proved the difference in a 5-4, Upstate Eight Conference River win against Geneva.
East junior Brannon Barry’s opposite-field RBI single to left field with two outs and two strikes didn’t exactly explode off his bat, but it nonetheless broke what was then a 4-all tie in the top of the seventh.
“It was a full cut but it was more of a defensive cut,” Barry said. “There’s a difference between a full, offensive cut and a defensive cut. I went in there, just too close to not try and take a swing at it, and then it worked out for me.”
Geneva claimed a 4-3 lead on a solo home run by center fielder Bobby Hess in the bottom of the fifth, an edge the Vikings maintained until the final inning.
That’s when Vikings coach Matt Hahn summoned South Alabama-bound right-hander Jordan Touro in hopes of nailing down a win for starting pitcher Brock Chenier.
But the meat of the Saints’ order – which failed to produce in an agonizing, one-run loss to Batavia the day before – hit in good fortune against Touro.
East shortstop Nicholas Erickson started the inning by reaching on a softly hit infield single before cleanup hitter Joe Hoscheit, after unsuccessfully trying a sacrifice bunt, singled to right field.
Touro then lost the grip while initiating his delivery, balking the runners to second and third with none out. Vikings freshman shortstop Nick Derr temporarily preserved the lead by gobbling up Brian Sobieski’s one-hop smash, but Saints pinch hitter Nick Huskisson tied the game at 4 with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Touro had two strikes on Barry before the right fielder delivered the decisive single.
“It was great to see us come back after not getting it done yesterday to come back and do it today,” East coach Len Asquini said.
Asquini sent Saints starting pitcher Troy Dykhuis (3-1) out against the top of Geneva’s order in the bottom of the seventh, and the inning started ominously for East when Derr singled to left field.
But Dykhuis got Vikings’ No. 2 hitter Luke Polishak to chase one in the dirt for strike three, and East catcher Adam Rojas made a successful snap throw to first, catching Derr too far off the bag for a deflating second out. Hess popped out to end the game.
East (11-6, 9-3 UEC River) started fast as Sobieski notched a two-run single in the first inning, and the Saints led, 3-0, after two. Hoscheit and Barry each went 2 for 3 with a walk for the Saints.
The lost lead continued what has been an unexpectedly rocky season for Geneva (7-9, 4-7 UEC River).
“You can’t ask for a better situation than going into the seventh inning, up one, with your ace on the mound,” Hahn said. “They got three hits, scored two runs, and they never really hit the ball hard. That’s baseball.”
In addition to his six innings of three-run ball on the mound, Chenier went 3 for 3 offensively, all singles. Geneva No. 9 hitter Brandon Evert helped Geneva come all the way back from its 3-0 hole with a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the fourth.
Geneva continues its St. Charles-intensive week with a home game against St. Charles North today before heading to East for a doubleheader on Saturday.
“It’s a tough sell to guys … to say keep doing what you’re doing, and then hoping that the result changes,” Hahn said. “That’s a tough sell. As a coach, I’ve never been in this situation before, so it’s tough for me to deal with, to try to figure out what to say, what to do and what buttons to push. Hopefully we’re peaking when we’re supposed to. That’s the goal.”