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Regional title win an emotional one for Bulldogs' Green

ELMHURST – Anyone who has observed Batavia pitcher Colby Green pitch knows he wears his emotions on his sleeve. But Green carried a little extra emotion into Saturday’s regional championship game against Willowbrook.

Green’s grandfather died in Oklahoma on Wednesday, making his start against the Warriors all that more meaningful. Green responded in kind, allowing just a sixth-inning double to help Batavia capture the IHSA Class 4A York Regional title with an 8-1 thumping of Willowbrook. 

After a nail-biting, 10-inning win over Bartlett in the regional semifinal, Batavia played a near-complete game against Willowbrook. The Bulldogs (31-3-1) rapped out nine hits – including three from Laren Eustace – and scored eight runs to give Green ample support.

The senior took care of the rest. Green said he scrapped his curveball early in the game and relied exclusively on a low-80s fastball and a darting split-finger that had Willowbrook (21-12) guessing all game. 

Batavia earned its first regional title in five years and a date with West Chicago on Wednesday in an IHSA Class 4A Schaumburg Sectional semifinal.

Mike Rothmund’s RBI double in the sixth was the only blemish off Green, who was otherwise in complete control. Aside from Rothmund’s double and three walks, Green cruised the rest of the game. Afterwards, Green was openly emotional about his week.

“I pitched this game for [my grandfather] – I know he really would have wanted to be here,” said a tearful Green. “Everything was working. The guys got me some runs. After I got the news Wednesday, [Batavia coach Matt Holm] told me he was going to let me go today. I knew the way my grandpa was, he would have wanted me to pitch this game.”

Batavia scored a run in the first on an RBI infield single from Micah Coffey that scored Eustace, who singled to leadoff the game. The Bulldogs scored four more in the second on two Willowbrook errors and a Jeremy Schoessling RBI single. 

The Bulldogs chased Willowbrook starter Jeremy Knable in the fourth as Eustace ripped an RBI triple – his second triple of the game – that scored Reagan McReynolds. Schoessling’s deep sacrifice fly off newly inserted Warriors reliever Matt Pizur made it 6-0. The RBI was part of a 2 for 3 day with three RBI for Schoessling, who has taken off offensively since being inserted in the 2-hole early in the year.

“He’s over .400. These bats, when they took the juice out of them, averages dropped,” Holm said. “For a kid to maintain .400 through the season like that – he was actually hitting not all that great at the bottom of the order. We moved him up and started hitting behind Laren and he started getting more pitches to hit.”

Eustace, Schoessling and Coffey combined for seven of Batavia’s nine hits while accounting for all of the teams’ RBIs. Schoessling and Coffey each had RBI extra-base hits in the sixth as Batavia scored a pair to go up 8-1. 

“Our goal is just to go out there and have fun because it just means another game that we get to play together,” said Eustace, who hit his seventh and eighth triples of the year. “We enjoy each others's company so much. It was a lot less stressful than the last one. We’re not taking anyone lightly like we did last year. We’re just taking it one game at a time and staying focused.”

Meanwhile, as Batavia played a near-flawless game, four early errors doomed Willowbrook. In the second inning, Knable got an out before a walk and an infield error behind him put runners on first and second. Knable snared a soft liner off the bat off McReynolds, but his attempt to pick off Andrew Siegler at second went into center field and allowed Siegler to score. 

After playing one of its best games of the year in its regional semifinal win over York, Willowbrook struggled against Green and gave Batavia too many outs on offense.

“I think we had them scouted pretty well but you can’t give them five runs right off the bat – that’s tough to come back from,” Willowbrook coach Vic Wisner said. “That kind of hurt of us a little bit. But, the way we battled against York and all of the things we showed against them shows tremendous character. Even the way we battled back today. With those errors it could have been a 15-0 game. We hung in there, kept it as close as we could. That showed the resiliency and character that we have.”

Green set down Willowbrook 1-2-3 in the seventh that included his signature fist-pump after retiring AJ Nolen to end the game. Green’s complete-game effort included seven strikeouts and big props from his coach. 

“He had a lot on his mind but he’s usually pretty focused and he was on a mission today,” Holm said. “He came out and told me yesterday before practice what was already working. He was just fantastic. That fastball today, boy, he was just pounding it up there today.”

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