Matt Holm needed a few days to fully grasp the significance of the Batavia baseball season, which still carried plenty of weight despite an unplanned finish.
The Bulldogs won a program-best 23 consecutive games en route to an Upstate Eight Conference River Division title and a school-record 32 victories.
The finality of falling short of a coveted state title especially struck those who played under Holm, the Kane County Chronicle Baseball Coach of the Year.
A senior-laden team lost the Class 4A Schaumburg Sectional final to eventual third-place finisher South Elgin, but in Holm’s view, the work and passion the Bulldogs displayed well before that entitled them to hurt.
“Every coach knows you have to have the talent to do the things that you set expectancy and goals for, you know, and then your part as a coach is just to get them that vision and work hard toward it,” Holm said. “If you don’t have the talent, you’re going to come up short. If you don’t have the drive, you’re going to come up short. If you don’t have the smarts, you’re going to come up short.
“The group had all of those things, as we did last year. You work so hard, and I just want to reiterate you deserve the sting that you feel when you’re done and you didn’t quite reach what you were trying to reach.”
Batavia, the sectional’s top seed, finished 32-4-1 one spring after losing its postseason opener despite another lofty postseason ranking.
Knowing such an experienced core was returning – namely a trio of Division I recruits in third baseman Micah Coffey (Minnesota), center fielder Laren Eustace (Indiana) and left-hander/first baseman Jacob Piechota (Western Michigan) – fueled the Bulldogs’ confidence.
It predated the first indoor winter workouts by several weeks.
Holm, also the defensive coordinator for Batavia’s defending Class 6A state football champions, still grins about a throng of football-baseball hybrids approaching him amid the postgame bedlam at Northern Illinois’ Huskie Stadium.
“Several guys came up to me right after the game, even at Northern and are saying, ‘OK, now it’s time to get the next one,’ “ Holm said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Let’s enjoy this, you know.’ ”
In the moments after the South Elgin loss, which hinged on a series of errors and bounces that seldom went against the Bulldogs during their winning streak, Holm admitted reflection would be the route at a later date.
Initially set to open summer ball two days later, Holm and Co. appreciated the gesture from would-be opposing coach Len Asquini of St. Charles East, who suggested the teams reschedule.
A family getaway this past weekend helped Holm reset himself for the summer juggling act of football workouts in the morning and baseball in the afternoon. Dave Rakow, who played under Holm at Batavia and now coaches Marmion, knew his mentor wouldn’t be devoid of wisdom for long.
“He’s somebody, whenever I do have a question or issue or anything like that. I don’t hesitate to give him a call,” Holm said. “He’s always made himself very available.”
His getaway notwithstanding, Holm admits to a lingering feeling the Bulldogs share that they should have been at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field for the state tournament this past weekend.
That goal was not to be, but Holm knows his players are equipped to move past the disappointment.
“It is what it is. It happens,” Holm said. “But we felt we were on a little bit more of a mission than that, and all of a sudden, it was gone, you know.”