CAROL STREAM – The good news for St. Charles Post 342 is its season lives to see another sunrise.
That’s about where the causes for optimism ended Friday night, as Post 342 faces a daunting, 7-1 hole after seven innings in an elimination game against Wheaton Post 76 in the District 11 playoffs. Lightning halted the game leading up to the top of the eighth and, after about a 20-minute delay, a 10 a.m. resumption was coordinated.
Although it benefits his team in this case, the American Legion rule mandating that the teams reconvene despite the lopsided score, so late in the game, confounds veteran Post 342 coach Dale Wilderspin.
“I think it’s crazy, especially when you’re playing nine-inning games,” Wilderspin said. “There’s a lot of stuff that the Legion needs to think about seriously because we’re going to lose kids to these different traveling programs because of these stupid rules.”
If Post 342 were to pull off the improbable morning comeback, it would still need to beat Elgin twice today to advance out of the district tournament.
The starting pitching matchup tilted heavily in Wheaton’s direction as Saint Louis-bound left-hander Sam Nafziger had Post 342 shut out through five innings until Dan Berendt’s RBI single accounted for the team’s lone run.
Meanwhile, Post 342 starter Sawyer Chambers lasted 21/3 innings and was charged with all seven runs. Fellow St. Charles North product Ankur Shah kept Post 76 in check the rest of the way.
“Shah has pitched twice in relief this week, and it was basically Sawyer’s turn [to start],” Wilderspin said. “And Sawyer has been light’s out up to this point, and there was no reason not to start him. But he’s had troubles in the first inning or so and what it is, is he gets too amped up, just a little too much adrenaline flowing.
“He’s got to settle down. These guys are a good fastball-hitting team. You can’t leave the ball up. You’ve got to get it down, and you can’t get behind in the count.”
Lake Bachar, like Nafziger a Wheaton North product, ripped doubles in all three of his at-bats for Post 76.
Post 342’s Anthony Bragg also clubbed a ground-rule double that Wilderspin thought might have been a homer, leading to a heated debate.
Post 342 (23-9-1) fell, 11-0, to Post 76 on Wednesday, and seems headed toward another bruising defeat in the double-elimination tournament.
If this is the end of the line, Post 342 infielder Mitch Endriukaitis will have considered it a worthwhile summer. The Geneva product missed most of the spring with a hand injury and said the season has allowed him to shake off rust before playing at Elgin Community College.
“Coming back from my hand being broken, it’s been tough, but I think I’m finally coming out of it,” Endriukaitis said. “I think I’ll be back to where I was at the beginning of the season last year.”