HOFFMAN ESTATES – A four-run first inning and a strong complete-game effort by sophomore pitcher Ryan Ward were the key ingredients Wednesday in Hoffman Estates’ 6-1 upset win over St. Charles East in the IHSA Class 4A Hoffman Estates Regional semifinal.
The Saints were seeded second in the sectional while Hoffman Estates was ranked No. 16.
Hoffman Estates solved Saints starter Adam Eck early, opening the game with three consecutive singles in the first inning, while Ward held East in check with no walks and nine hits scattered over seven innings
“We knew they were a good team and they came out and played a very good ball game and we just didn’t match it,” said East coach Les Asquini. “We didn’t match their energy level and we didn’t match their offensive output.”
“You got to start with Ryan Ward. He pitched with a great deal of composure out there and kept on throwing strikes,” said Hoffman Estates coach Todd Meador when asked what were the key points to his team’s win. “After that you have to look at some clutch hitting.”
Four of the first five batters for Hawks, who were the visitors because of the lower seed, reached base in the top of the first and scored. Eck gave up three runs before being replaced by Mike Boehmer.
Boehmer gave up a fourth single, which also scored the fourth run, before getting the Saints out of the inning.
“Unfortunately, it was a bad time for a bad outing. He [Eck] has not thrown like that all year,” Asquini said. “Boehmer came in and threw great and kept us close, keeping the score right there at four.”
East threatened several times in the game but was unable to get clutch hits. The Saints left men in scoring position in three separate innings.
“We got some guys on and had some scoring opportunities but boy he [Ward] got some big outs with some of our better hitters,” said Asquini.
East scored its only run in the fifth inning. Brannon Barry scored from second base on Ben Smith’s single.
Alex Abate had the most success against Ward, going 3 for 4. His double in the seventh was East’s only extra base hit of the day.
“Being a senior and realizing that this is the play offs and it’s coming close to the end of my baseball career I was really dialed in,” said Abate.
Hoffman Estates (14-16-1) pick up a run in the sixth on a Doug Rathje solo home run and one in the seventh on a double by Keegan Mugerditchian.
The Saints, who took second in the Upstate Eight River Conference, ended the season with a 24-11 record.