BATAVIA – Micah Coffey jogged to first base while Reagan McReynolds advanced home Tuesday, two Batavia baseball teammates combining to cover the last 180 feet of the Bulldogs' comeback trail.
Officially, Coffey's game-ending walk scored McReynolds to complete a 5-4, eight-inning victory against Geneva and secure an Upstate Eight Conference River Division sweep.
Still, Coffey contends the real catalyst came earlier and less passively: Batavia coach Matt Holm's message after his team fell behind, 3-0, after one half-inning.
"He just asked us to compete," Coffey said. "We haven't had a whole lot of games where we've had to fight and scratch and claw for everything that we wanted, so to be able to see our guys compete and fight for a win like that is really important at this stage in the season."
Batavia (21-3-1, 15-2-1 UEC River) strengthened its grip on the conference lead while Geneva bemoaned 10 walks – three intentional – that added up to thwart its bid to avoid a sweep.
"That's a game that we need to have," Geneva coach Matt Hahn said.
Moments later, Hahn also played the perspective card on the Vikings (16-11, 12-10). Earlier Tuesday, fifth-seeded Geneva learned it would join Tri-Cities brethren Batavia (No. 1), St. Charles East (No. 2) and St. Charles North (No. 3) as top-ranked teams in the upcoming Class 4A Schaumburg Sectional.
"That's kind of been the way it's been in the four years we've been in the Upstate Eight, is the four of us have kind of been at the top of the sectional," Hahn said. "It's got to be one of the better sectionals in the state, you know, top to bottom. We'll be ready to compete."
The Vikings might have to do so without Florida State-bound sophomore shortstop Nick Derr, who left the game in the sixth after suffering an injury to the fingers on his right, throwing hand.
Derr's opposite field triple three batters into the game scored Jason Croci to give the Vikings an early lead. Ben Chally and Brandon Evert added run-scoring singles later in the inning. Batavia center fielder Laren Eustace helped the Bulldogs start to answer by lining a leadoff homer to right in the bottom half.
Coffey's two-run, opposite field single to left with the bases loaded drew Batavia to within 4-3 in the fifth. McReynolds, the No. 9 hitter, helped turn things to the top of the order with one of his three walks on an overcast afternoon.
"Today, I really saw the ball," McReynolds said. "It's not that bright outside."
Holm felt just as strongly about his vantage point on the play after the Coffey hit off Vikings starter Bret Reed (five innings, three runs allowed), when a relay from left fielder Garrett Davis erased Jeremy Schoessling to end the inning. Holm argued Geneva catcher Nate Montgomery had blocked the plate before the throw arrived, but the call stood.
Holm eventually was asked to remain in the dugout for the remainder of the game – he did not coach third base after the fifth – but he later likened his motives to "the old Earl Weaver."
That is, arguing to inspire his players.
One of the emboldened was junior right-hander Nick Rogalski, who worked around two hit batsmen to earn the victory with three innings of scoreless relief of Evan Acosta.
"You know, the funny thing is, people get on. They do not score on him. They just don't," Holm said. "And knock on wood – there's a bunch of wood around here – he's been incredibly effective."
Geneva reliever Ben Slattery (1 1/3 innings of relief) took the loss.