CAROL STREAM – It can be tough to measure a baseball team’s potential by the first couple games, but if the early returns for Batavia stay true, the Bulldogs should have quite the season, with depth all over the field, including the pitcher’s mound.
One day after beating Benet, 6-1, to start the season, Batavia pitchers Evan Acosta, Nick Bleidorn and Mitch Boyer combined on a four-hitter Monday as the Bulldogs earned a 2-1 win against Kaneland at Pfund Field.
Batavia knew what it had in returning ace and Western Michigan recruit Jacob Piechota. Acosta could become a revelation for the Bulldogs, as the left-hander worked four innings of two-hit ball, fanning nine Knights on the day.
Bulldogs coach Matt Holm said Acosta could have played with the varsity a year ago as a sophomore, but Holm wanted him to get more at-bats. It was after a stellar summer campaign that Holm knew the Bulldogs had something in Acosta.
“I know he is good but last year with the staff we had we didn’t need to bring him up,” Holm said. “He hadn’t thrown a varsity inning before today but no one touched him over the summer. He was pounding the zone and his pitch count was up because no one was touching him.”
After falling behind Kaneland leadoff hitter Joe Panico, 2-0, to start the game, Acosta needed just 10 pitches to strike out Panico, Curtin Thorson and Joe Laudont. Acosta struck out at least two in each of his four innings, leaving with a 1-0 lead.
“It was a good outing today – I had nine strikeouts. Fastballs were working today but the curveball wasn’t really where I wanted it to be,” Acosta said.
The Bulldogs (2-0) scored their first run in the third on a Laren Eustace bloop single to right. The inning started with Sean Townsend getting hit by a pitch before Jeremy Schoessling singled to center. After both runners moved up on a Steven Busby sacrifice bunt, Townsend was caught trying to race home on a passed ball.
Eustace’s hit came off Kaneland reliever Nick Stratman, one of six Knights pitchers on the day.
It was the bottom of the order again that produced what turned out to be the game-winning run in the fifth.
Pinch hitter Kyle Niemiec led off the inning with a double before Schoessling was hit by a pitch.
After Niemiec and Schoessling moved up on a double-steal, Busby’s sacrifice fly to left drove in Niemiec to give Batavia a 2-0 lead.
Kaneland (0-1) scored its run in the sixth in bizarre fashion. Panico led off the inning with a single up the middle off Bleidorn. On the next pitch, Thorson blooped a hit to right.
Panico noticed no one was covering third, so the senior took off. The throw was wild and Panico ended up scoring. Thorson tried to score on the next play after Laudont reached on an error but was thrown out at home to keep the score at 2-1.
Boyer worked a perfect seventh inning, striking out the side to preserve the win for Batavia.
“That may have been one of the most dysfunctional games I’ve ever been a part of,” Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “I’m happy that the score stayed 2-1 but I’m not happy with some of the things that we did. We have a lot to improve on.”
Kaneland leaves Wednesday morning for a trip to Cincinnati, where the Knights will play some of the best teams from Ohio, including powerhouse Moeller High School.
“There are some great teams down there that we play – some powerhouses,” Aversa said. “We’ll see how we stack up against some of the best Ohio competition.”
Batavia is slated to play Willowbrook on Wednesday before rounding on the week with Naperville North on Friday. Each game will be played at Pfund Field, home of the Wheaton College baseball team.
The Bulldogs will look to build on the five hits they had against Kaneland, with one each from Eustace, Schoessling, Townsend, Andrew Siegler and Micah Coffey.