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Batavia baseball avoids 2nd straight early exit

ELMHURST – Good thing there'll be someone emceeing the Batavia baseball banquet tonight.

Transitioning any conversation in B-Town figures to border on the impossible otherwise.

How could the Bulldogs not exhaust every one of their tired, manic and elated words on Wednessday's Class 4A York Regional semifinal? Top-seeded Batavia pondered the potentially dooming reality of a second straight postseason upset loss more than once against No. 15 Bartlett. Through it all, they persevered.

As center fielder Laren Eustace scored on a two-out wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th, handing the Bulldogs a 5-4 win, bedlam officially ensued.

"We thought we were down, but we really wanted it. We didn't want another last year," senior left fielder Reagan McReynolds said. "So I'm glad we can come out and compete."

Winners of 21 straight, Batavia (30-3-1) matched the single-season school record for victories, and will try to eclipse it in Saturday's regional final against either York or Willowbrook, who meet in a semifinal today.

The chance to reset – the score, the situation, their psyches – arguably entices the Bulldogs most. Many heroic efforts enabled them to get there, namely senior third baseman Micah Coffey's two-strike RBI double to tie the game at 4-all in the bottom of the eighth after Bartlett rallied for a pair of runs in the top half.

Coffey also singled home two runs in the bottom of the first, a hit that proved to be rare paydirt as Batavia stranded nine runners through the first four innings and 13 overall.

"It can be frustrating when you know you're hitting the ball hard, you're getting guys on base, getting base runners and you're not scoring," Eustace said. "From the beginning of the first inning, I thought, 'Oh, we're going to win by a lot.' But then they shut us down. We left guys on base, missed a lot of opportunities."

As each lost chance mounted, the Bulldogs turned their thoughts to the 2013 regional semifinals, when Bartlett was the setting for Hoffman Estates' upset win against second-seeded Batavia.

"It always creeps in your mind," Bulldogs coach Matt Holm said. "I mean, I'm standing out there, 4-2, going, 'Are you kidding me?', you know. But I've asked these guys to do one thing this year, and that's compete. And they keep that thought in mind and they never gave up."

McReynolds' perfect throw to nab Hawks catcher Jordan Flint at the plate to end the top of the 10th offered the Bulldogs the last clean slate they needed.

Doug VanDyke, pitching in relief after starting Bartlett's regional quarterfinal Monday, smacked a hard-hit single to the left side, and McReynolds recovered to field a funny hop cleanly.

"Do or die. That's it. That's all I was thinking," McReynolds said. "I was like, 'Gotta make the throw, or else we're going home.' "

First baseman Jacob Piechota, who started on the mound and pitched five-plus innings, quickly joined the mob in front of the Batavia dugout after the play.

"It doesn't matter who was running," Piechota said. "McReynolds made one of the greatest throws I've ever seen him make."

Piechota also stood in the batter's box as VanDyke uncorked a wild first-pitch curveball with Eustace on third. Eustace hit a ground-rule double to lead off the 10th and had three hits. Andrew Siegler had three hits, and Matt Puttin and Piechota added two apiece.

Bartlett (14-17) hung around thanks in large part to sophomore left-hander Joey Roberson. Gaining steam as the game progressed, Roberson was effective with a slow curve while scattering three runs, nine hits, three walks and four strikeouts in eight-plus innings.

Hawks second baseman Cal Fanselow went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, while first baseman Jake Barrutia, batting over .400 this season, was 4 for 5 with an RBI.

Batavia lefty Evan Acosta limited the damage after entering in the eighth. The author of a two-hit, six-inning shutout of the Hawks in April, Acosta earned his seventh victory with 2 2/3 innings of two-hit, three-strikeout ball.

Hawks coach Chris Pemberton lamented his own team's lost chances as the Hawks "definitely took a No. 1 seed to the brink."

Boy, do the Bulldogs know. They have at least a couple more days to discuss how to avoid letting it happen again.

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