SCHAUMBURG – Reminders to remove dugout trash or to hurry for waiting buses pass extremely innocently during 23-game winning streaks.
On Saturday, those routine words carried like a line drive off the wall for Batavia baseball players. The Bulldogs offered little to compete above them for the first time in six weeks.
South Elgin snapped Batavia's run and ended its season with an 8-3 victory in the Class 4A Schaumburg Sectional final. All too suddenly, those final high-fives, hugs – and even instructions – had arrived.
"That's exactly it," senior third baseman Micah Coffey said. "I feel like we've earned every bit of hurt that we're feeling right now. I wasn't with the guys in the winter because of basketball, but these dudes, they've been at it. They've been goal-setting and they've been working their tails off since back when last season ended.
"Over the summer, into the fall. I just can't say enough for the effort that they've put into it. And again, our coaches. The time that they've put into us and invested into us, I'm so thankful for that."
South Elgin (24-10) turned the tables on the same pitcher who defeated it in mid-April to advance to the program's first supersectional.
Bulldogs senior right-hander Colby Green no-hit the Storm in a 6-0 victory about a week before the team's winning streak started, but on Saturday struggled to match that effort.
As the Storm have contended all along, they're a different group than the one that had its ups and downs during the Upstate Eight Conference season.
"We've been really hot hitting and our pitching has been working all year," second baseman Tommy Kramer said. "So it's really been our hitting that's stepped up."
South Elgin out-hit top-seeded Batavia (32-4-1), 11-7, but also capitalized on three Bulldogs errors and an aggressive base running strategy. Batavia had two runners thrown out at the plate.
While the Storm reached Green for five hits and five runs in 2 2/3 innings, their game-turning, four-run third inning almost didn't occur. With one out and a runner at first, South Elgin right fielder Danny Asa rolled a potential double-play grounder to second baseman Jeremy Schoessling, but the throw was wild and bounded toward the left field line.
Asa and first baseman Ryan Nutof moved up to second and third, respectively, and scored one batter later. Third baseman and No. 9 hitter Kyle Hays punctuated the rally with a two-run, two-strike opposite field double to right.
"We're trying to turn a double play to get out of an inning, and then all of a sudden, it turns into a four-run inning," Bulldogs coach Matt Holm said. "So the message to everybody is just how fragile it is, and little mistakes against a good team, they'll come back and bite you. I actually thought we were going to come back from it, and then things got a little out of hand in the last inning, too."
South Elgin, which took a 5-3 lead after its half of the third, added three more runs in the seventh, including a pinch-hit, two-run single from freshman Kevin Barry.
Storm senior righty Tyler Brown did his part to make a comeback difficult, retiring all nine Bulldogs he faced in relief, striking out two.
Brown relied on a curveball that was "breaking like crazy" to keep hitters guessing. He proved rather fond of that word after the game.
"It's crazy. I was just pumped up. Everyone was pumped up today," Brown said. "We've made it to this game, but this is the first time we've ever won a sectional championship."
Batavia amped up its offseason dedication knowing a strong core of seniors returned alongside a promising bunch of juniors, including lefty Evan Acosta, who pitched 3 2/3 innings of relief.
After an extra-inning scare from Bartlett in the regional opener, the Bulldogs seemed to relocate their pulse and maintained that confidence Saturday.
Center fielder Laren Eustace – an Indiana commit who joins Coffey (Minnesota) and pitcher/first baseman Jacob Piechota (Western Michigan) as Division I recruits – smacked a ground-rule double leading off the bottom of the first. Schoessling drove him in with a single one batter later, then scored himself on a Max Keough wild pitch with Kyle Niemiec at bat.
The Bulldogs led, 3-1, after two innings, but didn't score again, ending a season that, along with the winning streak, will be defined by a program record for single-season victories.
"Once it stops hurting, we'll definitely look back and smile," Coffey said. "Doing stuff that's never been done for the school and just the memories that we made. I kind of tried to tell everybody before the game, you know, let's make a memory today, on any given day. I know I've got a bunch. Can't thank the guys enough for that."
Along with handshakes, hugs and thank-yous, Holm shared that rhetoric with players.
"How many people, how many teams have walked away at the end of the year and said, 'OK, that was a pretty good season' or, 'I can't wait to get done with the season'?" Holm said. "These guys have invested so much that they have the right to hurt for awhile, and then they can take a step back and look at it, and go, 'God, that was unbelievable.' You know, it really was an unbelievable season with incredible seniors, incredible leadership."