BATAVIA – Laren Eustace had two hits by the time the first inning was over, and the Batavia junior was hardly finished bolstering the Bulldogs’ cause.
Eustace went 4 for 4 with two RBIs and pitched 22/3 innings of scoreless relief on Wednesday as the Batavia baseball team beat Streamwood, 9-5, to move within one win of clinching at least a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River title.
Eustace’s two, first-inning singles were part of a seven-run Bulldogs outburst to put the Sabres in an early, 7-0 hole.
Streamwood coach Ryan Lasota has seen enough of Eustace but the teams have the final game of their UEC River series on tap today in Streamwood. A Batavia win would force St. Charles East to beat Larkin today and win a resumed game against St. Charles North, likely on Friday, to tie the Bulldogs (24-6, 18-6 UEC River) for the conference crown.
“He’s able to lay down bunts, get on in a variety of ways,” Lasota said of Eustace, Batavia’s leadoff hitter. “Obviously if we can get him, maybe we won’t give up seven or eight in the first inning. It seems like he kind of gets them going, and they follow his lead. He’s a tough out, no doubt about it.”
While the first inning made it seem like a blowout was in progress, the Sabres (5-21, 5-19 UEC River) clawed all the way back to within 7-5, knocking Bulldogs starting pitcher Jacob Piechota out of the game in the fifth inning.
That’s when Eustace came in from left field, and the deceptively hard-throwing, diminutive lefty handcuffed Streamwood the rest of the way.
“I think that’s his third or fourth save where he’s come into jams like that,” Batavia coach Matt Holm said. “He and Micah [Coffey] were going to be our closers and Micah’s had back spasms, and I just don’t want to aggravate it, so Laren’s been the guy, and he’s been coming in at least once a week. … He’s such a different look than what the other guys are.”
Eustace wasn’t satisfied with the game Batavia played, especially with the postseason only a week away.
“The thing we need to work on is to keep the intensity going because we scored seven in the first inning and we only scored two the rest of the game, so it just shows that we’ve got to keep the intensity up and keep it going because that’s what we’re going to have to do with the playoffs,” Eustace said. “We’ve got to put teams away.”
Bulldogs third baseman Andrew Siegler and Coffey each drove in two runs during the Bulldogs’ seven-run first against Streamwood starter Matt Kozma, who settled down to pitch three scoreless innings before exiting after the fourth inning.
Holm said the Bulldogs are exclusively focused on their own play during this tight, final week of the conference race.
“We had our chance to play [St. Charles East] and we only got one [out of three], so we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do now, and they can take care of themselves,” Holm said.