BARTLETT – If the IHSA Class 4A St. Charles East Sectional seeds were to be believed, Batavia’s baseball game Thursday at the Bartlett Regional should have been a tune-up for some tougher games down the road.
But those games won’t happen for the Bulldogs this season after Batavia, seeded second in the 20-team sectional, gave up four late runs and was upset, 5-4, by No. 18 Hoffman Estates in a Bartlett Regional semifinal.
“We played our hardest, so it’s disappointing we didn’t come out of here with a win,” said the Bulldogs’ Andrew Seigler, who was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
“[Hoffman Estates] put the ball in play, got a few hits here and there. But it wasn’t anything we shouldn’t have been able to handle.”
The Bulldogs finish the season 27-7, while Hoffman Estates (11-18) won its fifth game in a row and moved on to Saturday’s regional final against the winner of today’s game between Bartlett and St. Charles North.
“We’ll play anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Batavia coach Matt Holm said. “But the reality is you can’t disrespect anybody. I don’t care if it’s the lowliest team on the planet.
“It’s baseball. It’s not football where you can just brute-force knock the living [crud] out of somebody and it’s your game. When it’s the playoffs, you have to knuckle down.”
Hoffman Estates opened the scoring with a run in the third inning on a walk, sacrifice bunt and RBI single off Batavia starter Austin Shanahan.
The Bulldogs answered in the bottom of the fourth with four runs, two on a double by Dino Simoncelli and two more on a single by Seigler.
Shanahan (8-2) appeared to be on cruise control, having retired seven straight with two outs in the sixth inning when he walked Keegan Mugerditchian, then committed an error on a roller back to the mound to extend the inning.
Before the Bulldogs could get a reliever warmed up, Hoffman Estates knocked out four straight RBI hits to take a 5-4 lead. After the fifth run scored, Holm replaced Shanahan with Jacob Piechota, who was able to get the last out of the inning and hold Hoffman Estates scoreless in the seventh.
“It doesn’t matter how many outs we have,” said the Hawks’ Jimmy Ward, who was 3 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored. “We’re playing some good baseball. We’re a really confident ballclub.
“We have a lot of momentum right now. Even down 4-1 to a good team, we’re going to keep rolling, keep fighting.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Laren Eustace (3 for 4) led off with a double and Billy Zwick followed with an infield single in which Eustace did not advance.
Hoffman Estates coach Todd Meador replaced starting pitcher Ethan Bloom with Ward, the Hawks’ No. 1 starter making only his second relief appearance of the season.
“It is a little unique situation,” Ward said of coming on in relief. “But it’s the playoffs. There’s no tomorrow, so I’m doing what I can.”
Ward got Micah Coffey to hit a ground ball to the shortstop, who started a double play that ended with a close play at first base, with Coffey being called out and Holm not agreeing.
Luke Horton then grounded out to end the game, and the Bulldogs’ season.
“[That] call made a big difference in that series,” Holm said of the play at first base to compete the double play. “If they don’t turn two, we get a groundball and Laren is going to score.
“I feel the worst for our seniors. They deserve way better than that.”
Seigler said the co-Upstate Eight Conference River champion Bulldogs thought they would pull it out in the final inning.
“We’re the Battling Bulldogs, and we kind of showed it,” he said. “We had confidence we could come back and win. Laren and Billy got us going in the seventh. It just didn’t happen for us today.”
Shanahan was charged with five runs, one of them earned on eight hits, two walks and a hit batter. He struck out six.