LISLE – The St. Charles East baseball team hardly expected a summer state tournament game to devolve into glorified batting practice.
But once East surged to a comfortable lead against Glenbrook North on Monday, forcing the Spartans to go deep into their bullpen, the Saints looked like they could name the final score, which turned out to be 15-5 in five innings in a Phil Lawler Classic Elite Eight matchup at Benedictine University.
“For the most part, their first pitcher and second pitcher were what we were expecting – good speed, they could get their off-speed [pitches] over,” East center fielder Austin Regelbrugge said. “Then … we were thinking, ‘Let’s get ahead and slaughter this team, get out of here early.’ ”
In winning the opener of the double-elimination summer state finals, East (20-12-1) advances to face Libertyville – which defeated the Saints in a 4A state semifinal less than two months ago – in a 3 p.m. matchup today at North Central College.
The Saints sent six or more batters to the plate in every inning except the third, piling up 14 hits and drawing seven walks.
Regelbrugge, the Saints’ leadoff hitter, drew three of those walks after doubling in the bottom of the first.
“At the beginning [of the summer], we weren’t hitting very well, and some of the guys were missing with football and other things,” Regelbrugge said. “And then once the tournament hit, we got all our guys here, and we’ve been hitting it really well. We’d like to keep it going.”
Saints coach Len Asquini cautioned not to read too much into Monday’s offensive bonanza, saying East faced better pitching last week in the regional that it hosted.
Still, the Saints looked awfully dangerous against the Spartans.
Along with Regelbrugge’s productive evening, first baseman Ben Smith drove in four runs on two hits, shortstop Jake Milosch had three hits and three RBIs and second baseman Jake Clodi went 2 for 3 with a double, walk and three RBIs.
Milosch, though, heard an earful from his dugout after his second, drastically off-line throwing error of the game.
“That’s a good sign that he doesn’t let it carry over and affect him offensively,” Asquini said. “He’s had it clean for a couple weeks but when he tilts his shoulders a little bit when he throws, his ball goes all over the place, and he got back to that today.”
Leading 10-5 entering the bottom of the fifth, the Saints scored five more to trigger the mercy rule, capped by a two-out, RBI single from Jake Rykoskey, his second run-scoring single in as many innings.
East senior left-hander Adam Eck walked the first three batters he faced in the top of the third and exited after the third inning, with East leading, 7-4. Saints junior Kyle Cook relieved Eck, throwing the final two innings.
Asquini downplayed a rematch with Libertyville so soon after the Saints dropped the teams’ showdown in Joliet. One day later, East regrouped against Neuqua Valley to take third in the state.
“Some similar guys, but very different teams than [in June],” Asquini said. “It’s a nice story and a good write-up and all that kind of stuff, but we really look forward to having to play a much better game tomorrow to beat them. They’re definitely a quality program. We’re going to see a much better pitcher, and we’re going to have pick the ball up and throw it across the diamond to be in the ballgame.”
If the Saints top Libertyville, they’ll remain unscathed in the double-elimination event heading into Wednesday. With a loss against Libertyville, the Saints would have to play a second game today.
The tournament concludes Thursday at Benedictine.