ST. CHARLES – Cory Wright told St. Charles North baseball coach Todd Genke that he wasn’t coming out of the game.
For North's sake, it was for the best that he didn’t.
Wright pitched a gem Saturday afternoon, throwing a complete game in nine innings – what he guessed was the longest he’s ever thrown – and allowing just one run to lead the North Stars to a 2-1, extra-inning win over Glenbard North in the IHSA Class 4A St. Charles North Regional championship game. It’s the North Stars' first regional title since 2010.
“I told them, ‘You need to visualize holding this regional plaque up on Saturday afternoon, and if you believe it, it will happen,’” Genke said. “Cory Wright had a lot to do with that. I’ve said it a hundred times, he’s a warrior. There’s no quit in him. I went to ask him in the eighth inning, ‘Cory, how do you feel?’ And he’s like, ‘Coach, are you serious? You’re not taking me out of this game.’”
Indeed, Wright was stupendous for the North Stars. After Glenbard North grabbed a 1-0 advantage on a sacrifice fly in the third inning, Wright seemed to get stronger as the game went along. After that run scored, he allowed just four hits and a walk over the final six innings. He picked off two of those baserunners, and two others were cut down on fielder’s choices. Wright struck out the side in the first extra inning. He also went 2 for 3 with a sacrifice bunt as the North Stars’ leadoff man.
“Any time you go into that game, you’re just thinking you’ve got to win. No matter how long you’ve got to go, you have to stay out there and keep competing, and that’s what I did,” Wright said. “It’s fun to be in these situations.”
While Wright dominated on the mound, his battery-mate accounted for the necessary offensive damage. Catcher Kyle Khoury had a four-hit day (North had just six hits total) and scored both St. Charles North runs. His solo home run to left field tied the game in the fifth inning, and he came home to score on a walk-off sacrifice fly off the bat of second baseman Riley Coomes in the ninth after leading off the inning with a double down the left-field line.
“That was big time,” Wright said of Khoury’s game-tying round-tripper. “Me and Kyle are best friends, so that was a solid moment. We got a little connection going, pitcher to home, and then he tied it for us, he kept us in the game.”
Two runs were all it took Saturday, thanks not just to Wright but also to Glenbard North starting pitcher Eric Orze, who was also highly effective, particularly early in the game. He allowed just two baserunners over the first four innings. He eventually departed in the seventh but finished with just five hits allowed.
“I was trying to do my best to keep the ball down, let my defense work,” Orze said. “We knew coming in we had to play some very good baseball, this is a very good team. And I want to give credit to them. They played really well, they played a little bit better than us, executed a little bit better. But overall, we played a clean game all together, both teams. And I’m proud of all our seniors and the way we played today.”
Genke described the challenge he posed to his team before this season began. He wanted to see them “hang some numbers,” a reference to the placards hanging from the press box that indicate years in which the North Stars won regional championships. The most recent one read 2010. Until Saturday.
“It’s big time. We haven’t won this in four years, and coach always talks about hanging numbers,” Wright said. “We worked our butts off in the offseason and early in the year, and now we’ve got ‘2-0-1-4’ hanging up there.”
“To be able to win a regional on our field in front of our fans and have our seniors continue to play baseball is a special thing,” Genke said. “And I’m just proud to be a part of it. … It’s just a really special opportunity and a special moment for St. Charles North baseball.”