ST. CHARLES – The Larkin baseball team entered its Saturday doubleheader against St. Charles North with just 12 players, only five of them pitchers.
So after the Royals used two pitchers in a Game 1 loss, they needed their No. 1 pitcher to eat up some innings in the nightcap.
And that is exactly what Brayden Royse did, going the distance in the 4-1 complete-game victory, earning his first victory and spoling the host North Stars' bid for an Upstate Eight Conference River Division sweep.
“He’s our No. 1, the guy we want on the hill in clutch situations,” Royals coach Matt Esterino said. "When he is in the zone, he is tough. Mentally, he is as strong as they come. He will challenge you and not give in.”
North (12-12, 8-9 UEC River) struck out just once in the nightcap after winning the opener, 6-3. The North Stars opened the Game 2 scoring in the third inning as Ryan Thomas doubled and scored on a Jack Dennis double.
Larkin (7-14, 4-13) answered in the fifth, as Rob Bond singled in Tyler Kalusa and Dan Lenz, who both singled ahead of Chris Guzeman’s walk. Larkin added two more in the inning on an error.
The North Stars committed four errors, all inthe infield, in Game 2, helping to knock out starting and losing pitcher Joe Barsanti.
"When you have more errors than hits, you are not going to win games,” North Stars coach Todd Genke said. “Our infield is having a really rough time. There are plays they make when I say, ‘They’re getting it, getting some confidence.’
"Then the next ball hit to them they look like they haven’t fielded a ball in weeks. I am really at a loss [to explain] our infield play. We have moved guys around, given guys opportunities. But for whatever reason, the confidence is not there.”
In Game 1, North’s Ankur Shah went the distance in the 6-2 victory. He allowed six hits and two walks while fanning seven.
"I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Shah, who moved to 4-2 on the season. “I was cruising along, then I lost something. But I just trusted myself, got it back and limited the damage.”
The North Stars scored three runs in the third as Thomas singled, Dennis walked and Nick Drawant was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Carson Schmitt singled in the first run, and Cory Wright and Tim Misner were hit by pitches with the bases loaded for the next two runs.
Larkin touched Shah for two runs in the top of the fourth, but the North Stars responded with two in their half of the inning, knocking out Jon Jowaski as Riley Coomes had an RBI single and eventually came around to score on an RBI groundout off the bat of Drawant to increase the lead to 5-2.
"In Game 1, we did all the little things we needed to do to win,” Genke said. “We pitched pretty well, added on when we needed to. We defended well, picked it up and threw it where we were supposed to."
Larkin loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, but Shah got two pop outs to escape damage. He later put two on with nobody out in the seventh. Possibly down to his last batter with action in the bullpen, Shah struck out two hitters and ended the game with a flyout to center.
"I don’t worry about [relievers throwing inthe pen],” Shah said. “I just execute my pitches and let my defense make plays. My slider was working effectively in the late innings more than my fastball.”