ROSELLE – In Thursday's 4-3 regional semifinal loss to Lake Park, it was a case of small ball giving and small ball taking away from the Geneva baseball team.
The Vikings put up a three-spot in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 3 with the benefit of only one hit. In the fifth, Lake Park returned the favor, scoring a run on a bases-loaded walk – one of four in the inning – for what turned out to be the winning run to send the Lancers to an unlikely regional title matchup with West Chicago.
“They’re very good – they are not a 12 seed, and that’s one of the tough things about the IHSA seeding,” Geneva coach Matt Hahn said. “You get teams that are hot after the seeding meeting or cold right after the meeting and it’s not really a true matchup.”
Hahn’s assessment of Lake Park (13-22) was certainly influenced by starting pitcher Rhett Rapshus. The right-hander only allowed two hits in a complete-game, 99-pitch effort in which the senior struck out five Geneva hitters.
Save for the third inning in which the Vikings plated all three of their runs, Rapshus was on cruise control, baiting Geneva (20-15) into weak contact with a hard fastball and a biting, steeply breaking curveball.
“The one inning we struggled a little bit we were amped up and were lucky to get out of that inning, to be honest,” Lake Park coach Dan Colucci said. “He was getting his off-speed pitches over and was getting ahead of hitters.”
The Lancers jumped on Geneva starter Bret Reed in the second, scoring three runs to take an early 3-0 lead. Run-scoring singles from Colin Fowich, Gunnar Barlund and Zach Zimmerman provided what seemed like plenty of runs for Rapshus, who didn’t allow a hit until the third inning.
In the bottom of the third, leadoff hitter Nick Fitzmaurice reached on an error and was sacrificed over by Nate Polishak. After Garrett Davis walked and Alex Labrillo was hit by a pitch, Ben Chally’s end-of-the-bat infield single scored Fitzmaurice to put the Vikings on the board. Jack Wassel walked to score Davis before Nate Montgomery’s infield grounder was kicked by the Lake Park shortstop as Labrillo scoring to tie the game at 3 with all three Vikings runs unearned.
Max Novak came on in relief of Reed in the fourth and put down the Lancers in order. In the fifth, Novak ran into trouble, walking the bases loaded and prompting Hahn to make a change. Jack McCloughan came in to face Barlund with two outs and the bases loaded. After fouling off a few pitches, Barlund worked the count full before taking a pitch down and away that scored Anthony Gallina to put Lake Park up, 4-3.
Geneva only managed two baserunners and one hit after the third off Rapshus. A two-out Davis single went for naught in the fourth before Chally was gunned down trying to steal third after walking in the fifth.
Rapshus, who improved to 3-6 with the win, set down the last six Vikings in order to preserve the win for Lake Park.
“It was great – we didn’t die and it would have been easy for us to quit [after the third inning],” Rapshus said. “We just went out and scratched one out. It’s a great feeling. We know we’re a better team than we’ve showed this season. We know we’re a better team than we’ve played and it’s a new season. We’re 1-0 right now.”
Lake Park will take on West Chicago in Saturday’s regional championship game after both teams pulled seeding upsets in the semifinal round.