ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East baseball coach Len Asquini knows what it's like to win a state championship.
His second stint as Saints coach is about trying to replicate those feelings for a new crop of Saints ballplayers, and East is starting to flirt with making that a realistic scenario.
East defeated Wheaton North, 5-3, in Saturday's IHSA Class 4A St. Charles East Baseball Sectional championship game, pulling off its second straight seeding upset in sectionals. The triumph marked the Saints' first sectional title since 2004 under former head coach and current assistant Mark Foulkes, and East's first sectional crown under the four-class system.
"You want to keep moving forward, another game, another game, another game for the kids," said Asquini, in the second season of his second tour of duty with the program. "It's a great experience for them, it's a great experience for the community and the school. You want that for them, to let them experience it and feel it, because it is a lot of fun. This is a wonderful moment."
East (26-11) advances to battle Jacobs (25-11) in Monday's 7 p.m. supersectional at the Rockford Aviators' stadium.
The fourth-seeded Saints, the visiting team on their home field, spotted third-seeded Wheaton North a 3-0 lead after the bottom of the first, but the Saints soon pulled even.
East starting pitcher Nick Huskisson and first baseman Brian Sobieski notched consecutive doubles off Falcons starting pitcher Lake Bachar (8-1) to open the top of the second. Sobieski scored on a throwing error to cut the Falcons' lead to 3-2 before an RBI, fielder's choice chopper by center fielder Anthony Sciarrino closed the scoring in the inning with the game tied at 3.
Sciarrino, East's No. 9 hitter, again played a role as the Saints took the lead in the top of the fifth. He led off the inning with a single, then was sacrificed to second base by Nicholas Erickson. Third baseman Sean Dunne drew a walk, making it first and second with one out, when left fielder Joe Hoscheit pulled a grounder to the left side of the infield that paid dividends.
The ball skimmed off Sciarrino, but the umpires ruled that Wheaton North third baseman Greg Scandora had a play on the ball first, so Sciarrino was allowed to score the go-ahead run once the ball bounded away.
"That third baseman had an opportunity to field the ball, and when he didn't field that ball, if it hits our guy, it hits our guy," Asquini said. "The gate's open. He had an opportunity to field it so, by rule, they made the right call. That's what I saw at third base. I saw Anthony behind him, not in front. If he was in front, then it's a different story, and then he should be out."
Sciarrino was especially gratified to play a part in both of East's run-scoring innings in light of an offensive tailspin this spring.
"I had a pretty good junior year and coming in, I thought I'd have a good senior year but unfortunately that's not the case," Sciarrino said. "It feels great to finally contribute to the team [offensively] and help us win a huge game here."
Dunne scored to make it 5-3 later in the inning on a Wheaton North error, one of five the Falcons committed on the day compared to one from the Saints.
Wheaton North (27-9) threatened in the bottom of the fifth, driving Huskisson (7-1) from the game, but senior right-hander Troy Dykhuis – a solid, No. 3 starting pitcher for the Saints during the regular season – continued to thrive in his role as postseason reliever, wiggling out of a two out, bases load situation by getting Bachar to ground to Erickson at shortstop. Erickson stepped on second base to end the threat.
"That was a big, pressure situation," Dykhuis said. "I was able to keep the fastball down and get the groundout."
Dykhuis worked 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, setting the Falcons down in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
Wheaton North's early-game momentum eroded further in the bottom of the third when leadoff hitter and center fielder Ryan Kent was ejected, apparently for arguing a called third strike.
"That definitely hurt," Falcons coach Dan Schoessling said. "It was unfortunate what happened there. It's kind of indicative of the way things went today. That type of thing never happens to us."
Conversely, it was a euphoric Saturday for the Saints, whose day started with a thrill when former Saint and current Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Matt Reynolds – in town as the Diamondbacks visit the Cubs – threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
When word spread that East's softball team rallied for a sectional championship of its own on the other end of campus, the good times kept rolling.
"You don't always get to play in front of a major league player," Sciarrino said. "It's awesome that he's an alum here, and softball got the big 'W,' we're both going to supersectionals, so it's a real good day to be a Saint, and I'm proud to be a Saint."