BATAVIA – Scoring runs has been a struggle for the St. Charles North baseball team this season. That was the case again Friday, keeping the heat on North Stars pitcher Cory Wright.
Not that Wright minded.
“I like feeling that way, though,” Wright said. “I like the pressure. I like being under pressure, and I like competing. It’s where I thrive. It’s the most fun to be in spots where you’re needed.”
With the game at Batavia scoreless through five innings, the North Stars finally broke through for three runs in the top of the sixth, accounting for all the scoring in the North Stars’ 3-0 Upstate Eight Conference River victory.
Batavia’s loss in the series opener drops the Bulldogs (20-6, 14-6 UEC River) a half-game behind St. Charles East (15-6 UEC River) for first place in the conference. The Bulldogs and North Stars will conclude their series with a doubleheader today in St. Charles.
Batavia’s only quality scoring chance came in the bottom of the third when the Bulldogs had runners on the corners with one out and the meat of their coming up. But Batavia junior Micah Coffey’s grounder to first base resulted in North’s Jack Dennis throwing out Laren Eustace at the plate, and Wright fanned Luke Horton to end the inning.
Those were the first two of 14 straight Bulldogs batters Wright (4-2) retired as the sophomore left-hander surged to a complete game, three-hitter.
“I just had a feel for all of my pitches, and that was the difference,” Wright said. “Usually, I have a feel for one or two, but I had a feel for all three, and I felt like I could get them out with any of them, so I felt good.”
North coach Todd Genke loved the way Wright used fastballs on the inner-half to set up his other pitches. Genke also came away praising the way Wright fields his position.
“He’s the fifth defender on the infield,” Genke said. “I mean, he can make plays. They hit a couple balls back at him, nice plays, a couple bunts that he made plays on – No. 1, it saves your pitch count, No. 2, it saves your defense.”
Batavia also had a lefty on cruise control most of the game. Bulldogs junior Jacob Piechota had the North Stars’ offense reeling until his own defensive miscue opened the door to a big inning in the top of the sixth.
After North’s Frankie Farry opened the inning with an opposite field single to left, center fielder Kurt Barbeau laid down a sacrifice bunt, which Piechota fielded before making an errant throw toward second base. Another Bulldogs throwing error on a double-steal by North allowed pinch runner Tim Hausl to score the game’s first run, and Ryan Thomas followed by lacing a triple down the right field line to make it 2-0.
Thomas and teammate Tim Misner – usual starters for North – were worked into the lineup as the game unfolded after arriving late due to AP exams.
“We actually talked in the car, we’re like, ‘We’ve got to get ready to go right now,’ ” Thomas said. “We were jamming out to some Kesha.”
North (13-13, 9-10 UEC River) notched its final run one batter later on Kyle Khoury’s sacrifice fly.
The Bulldogs were without head coach Matt Holm, who is attending son Axel’s college graduation this weekend at Iowa State. The game was pushed from Thursday to Friday because of weather.
“We didn’t get leadoff guys on, and that’s been a key for us this year, is leadoff guys on, because once we get guys on, we’re pretty good at executing,” said Batavia assistant coach Alex Beckmann. “But, when guys aren’t on base, then obviously you can’t score.”
The North Stars were errorless in the field, which goes against the grain of how their season has unfolded. Genke recently implored the team to close the season strong.
“I challenged them two days ago in the dugout, I said ‘Our playoffs start now,’ ” Genke said. “We’re not going to just kind of finish out the rest of our season. We’re going to go over to Batavia and play like a playoff game. They took it as a challenge, and they met the challenge.
“But I told them, enjoy it tonight, but we’re going to be ready to go again tomorrow. We’re going to try stay at that level because that’s where we belong, at a playoff-type level.”