GENEVA – Neither Anthony Bragg, Dan Berendt nor Steffen Graham were in the Geneva baseball team’s starting lineup for Thursday’s loss against St. Charles East.
Welcome back, fellas.
Bragg had a momentous day and Berendt and Graham also supplied healthy offensive contributions as part of Friday’s 19-1, five-inning thrashing of St. Charles North in Upstate Eight Conference River play.
With Geneva’s conference title hopes already dim, Vikings coach Matt Hahn has said a focal point for the rest of the season is figuring out the team’s strongest lineup heading into the postseason next month.
The aforementioned trio made compelling cases for inclusion on Friday, one day after watching from the bench as the Vikings fell to East, 5-4.
“When opportunities come around, you’ve got to take advantage of them,” Hahn said. “Maybe that was in part of their mind, ‘I didn’t get a chance [Thursday], I’m getting a chance today and I need to take advantage of that.’ I hope that’s the case.”
Bragg, a senior first baseman, punished North with a 4 for 4 day at the plate that included a grand slam, a three-run home run and eight RBIs, one shy of the single-game, program record established by former Vikings star Chris Sepanski.
Bragg, who had a lukewarm first month offensively, inflicted his damage out of the 7-hole in Geneva’s lineup.
“It’s pretty cool, but it’s just cool to get the ‘W,’ ” Bragg said.
Bragg said he understands the need for players to produce to remain in the lineup.
“Everyone’s a good ballplayer on this team,” Bragg said. “It keeps everyone competitive and keeps everyone playing at their best and playing intense.”
The wild score was somewhat reminiscent of a memorable game between the teams last season, when Geneva plated 15 runs in the top of the fifth of a 17-1 win in St. Charles.
Despite Friday’s mauling, the North Stars (9-9, 5-5 UEC River) won two out of three games in the teams’ weather-extended series. That provided a measure of comfort to North coach Todd Genke, who delivered an extended postgame message to the North Stars.
“If somebody would have said you’re going to take two out of three against Geneva, I would have said ‘Great,’ ” Genke said. “Unfortunately the one that we didn’t get was pretty messy.
“This game’s all about confidence. We had swagger coming into the week, we beat South Elgin and then we beat Geneva, and for whatever reason we lost it [Thursday against Streamwood], and we certainly didn’t recover it today.”
The Vikings (8-9, 5-7 UEC River) scored at least three runs in each of their four at-bats, including a six-run second that marked the end of the line for North starting pitcher Frankie Farry, and a seven-run third against reliever P.J. O’Brien. The Vikings would kept going in the third if not for a sliding, inning-ending catch by North left fielder Jack Dennis.
While Bragg’s eight-RBI day was the headliner, Geneva’s offense was hardly one-dimensional. Berendt (2 for 4, three-run home run, four RBIs), Luke Polishak (3 for 4, two RBIs) and Graham (2 for 2, two-run double) ensured sophomore Vikings left-hander Garrett Davis had a glut of run support.
Davis (2-0) made his first start for Geneva after earlier picking up a win in relief against Streamwood. Though he recorded no 1-2-3 innings, he nonetheless kept the North Stars from sustaining rallies.
“It was nice to see because they didn’t really square anything up real solid,” Hahn said. “I think that’s a testament to his ball moves well and he mixes up his pitches pretty good.”
The massive margin of victory was a welcome morale boost for Geneva, which hopes to stay on an upward trajectory in a doubleheader today at St. Charles East.
“It’s nice and relaxing,” Berendt said. “It feels good. It’s different – it’s a good different.”