MAPLE PARK – Credit Joe Laudont’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth for Kaneland’s 7-6 win over Geneva Saturday afternoon.
Give an assist to a reversed balk call in the top half of the inning, which also had a major impact on the outcome of the non-conference game.
With no outs and Viking runners on second and third, Kaneland reliever Nick Henne started to throw a pitch to Geneva batter Jason Croci. Instead of throwing the ball to the plate, Henne faked a pick-off to unoccupied first base.
The move was called a balk and Brandon Evert was waved home from third base with what would have been Geneva’s go-ahead run. Alex Lobrillo advanced from second to third.
Kaneland coach Brian Aversa appealed the call. After the three-man umpiring crew discussed the play, they reversed the call and ordered Evert back to third and Lobrillo to second. The officials decided that Henne had taken a step backward off the pitching rubber so the pick-off attempt was not a balk.
“ If he had jumped and straddled the rubber then that’s a balk, but he stepped off,” Aversa said. “I’m going to battle for my kids and [Geneva coach Matt Hahn is] going to battle for his.”
“ I have no comment on that,” Hahn said when asked about the umpire's decision to reverse the call.
Henne got out of the inning. The senior right-hander stuck out Croci and Garrett Davis. Sophomore Nick Derr ended the inning with a flyout to deep center field.
Kaneland (7-3) quickly ended the game in its half of the ninth. Joe Panico led off the inning with a double and scored when Laudont, the next batter, laced his single to center.
“ I was surprised coach didn’t call for a bunt but Joe had a great hit and [Aversa] wanted to keep the momentum going,” Laudont said. “Coach said to swing aggressive, get my pitch and hit it up the middle. Do something good with it.”
The appealed balk was not the only play that aided Kaneland. The Knights capitalized on Geneva fielding miscues to score three of their runs.
“ Brian’s teams always put the ball in play. Our defense really let us down today – that was the difference,” Hahn said. “I think I counted six, maybe more, errors.”
Geneva (8-2) took a 4-0 lead in the third on two walks, two singles and a double off Kaneland starting pitcher Nate Hopkins.
Davis, who was Geneva’s starting pitcher, cruised through the first three innings. After giving up a leadoff single in the first, the junior southpaw retired 10 Knight batters in a row. With one out in the fourth, Kaneland reached Davis for four straight singles to cut the Vikings' lead to 4-2.
Kaneland took the lead, 5-4, in the next inning when a Danny Hammermeister grounder was misplayed and allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to cross the plate.
Geneva pulled back ahead, 6-5, in the sixth. Ben Chally scored the tying run on Nate Montgomery’s double to left. After Nick Stahl replaced Hopkins on the mound, Montgomery scored when Kaneland could not handle Nick Porretto’s infield grounder.
“ That’s two games in a row where we have come back from behind,” Hahn said. “If there is a silver lining to this game then that would be it.”
The Knights knotted the game back up in the seventh. Laudont scored on Hammermeister’s misplayed grounder.
“ Our team did a nice job of staying with it and making the best of the opportunities that were presented to us, and we came out on top at the end,” Aversa said.