ST. CHARLES – Available fastballs became an increasingly rare commodity for the Batavia baseball team's offense Thursday, and it's no coincidence the hits started drying up, too.
The Bulldogs fell one game short of reaching the summer Elite Eight as they lost to Crystal Lake South, 4-0, in the championship game of the St. Charles East Regional.
After his team threatened in the first couple innings against Gators left-hander Timmy Siesennop, Bulldogs coach Matt Holm could sense adjusting to Siesennop's curveball could become problematic.
"I walked over and I said 'If he throws one more fastball, they're not very smart – you guys are going to have to prove that you can hit the curveball,'" Holm said. "And there were only a couple that we put in play hard. He did a real nice job."
Batavia (18-7-1) was on the verge of taking a swift lead in the top of the first when leadoff man Jimmy Roach singled, was sacrificed to second base by Sean Townsend and then tried to score on Nick Rogalski's single up the middle.
But Gators center fielder Collin Chubb made an excellent throw home and catcher Nick Van Witzenburg applied the tag in plenty of time to keep Roach from scoring.
"I saw the outfield was really bouncy and I tried to get it on one hop," said Chubb, who was hit by a pitch in each of his first two at-bats. "I saw [first baseman Derek Bulger] was out there for my cut, so I just tried to throw the ball right through him, and one-bounced it to home, and we got him."
Siesennop allowed four of Batavia's five hits in the first two innings and kept the Bulldogs hitless for the final 3 1/3 innings of his complete game. The curveball set the tone for Siesennop, who saw limited varsity innings while mostly pitching for the Gators' sophomore team during the spring.
Crystal Lake South had no big innings against Batavia right-hander Eric Huizinga but the Gators scratched single tallies in the first, second, third and fifth innings to steadily pull away.
"We didn't just get complacent and happy with the one- or two-run lead because earlier on this week, we played a 12-inning game after sitting on a 2-0 lead [against Oswego East], and that wasn't a lot of fun staying up that late to play," Gators coach Brian Bogda said.
The team's third run came when Crystal Lake South took advantage of a concentration lapse by Batavia's defense. With runners on first and third and two outs, Crystal Lake South pinch-runner John Smerecky dashed home and scored after John Constantino intentionally extended a run-down long enough for Smerecky to cross home before being tagged out between first and second base.
"What's embarrassing about that is that's one of ours," Holm said. "I mean, that's what we do. And the funny thing is we work on it ourselves a lot, and we just fell asleep. I think it's probably the only time certainly in the last two weeks where we've fallen asleep, and they took advantage of it."
Batavia graduated most of its firepower from a powerhouse in the spring that won the Upstate Eight Conference River championship and earned a No. 1 sectional seed before falling to South Elgin in a sectional final.
Despite having many holes to plug, Holm said the team demonstrated this summer that there are plenty of newcomers ready to join returnees such as Evan Acosta, Kyle Niemiec and Rogalski to keep the program on a winning path.
"I feel like we've got quite a bit to reload with and feel good about," Holm said.