CAROL STREAM – Early in the season, baseball games tend to come down to simple execution to determine the winner.
Batavia found that out the hard way Tuesday morning, committing three errors – including a costly one in the top of the seventh inning – in a 4-3 nonconference loss against Willowbrook at Wheaton College’s Pfund Stadium.
“The errors are something we have to take care of with the younger guys,” Batavia coach Matt Holm said. “Cut the mistakes.”
Batavia shortstop Kyle Niemiec overthrew his first baseman to start the seventh, with the runner advancing to second base on the play.
After a sacrifice bunt advanced the runner to third, Willowbrook (4-1) capitalized on the mistake in the next at-bat.
Michael Petruzzi laced a shot toward the left center field gap, with Bulldogs center fielder Steven Busby tracking it down.
But Busby crashed into his left fielder after making the catch, dropping the ball and altering the game moments later.
The umpires – who originally had ruled the catch an out – ruled the ball was dropped on the transfer, overturning the call.
The play gave Willowbrook a 4-3 lead while Petruzzi advanced to third as the Warriors threatened to score again.
Bulldogs reliever Ben Lynam earned two of his seven strikeouts after to get Batavia (1-1) out of the jam, but took the loss for his efforts after relieving starter Eric Huizinga after four innings.
The Bulldogs had a chance to tie in the bottom of the inning after senior Pat Greco laced a two-out double to the left center gap.
A moment later, Luke Beckmann grounded out on a first-pitch slurve to end the game.
Greco said the breakdown in fundamentals defensively was key to the loss.
“We just have to make the plays,” Greco said. “We have to make the easy plays to get guys out. We can’t give them extra outs. Our pitchers are going to make pitches and our offense is good enough to win games, but when we’re not making easy plays we’re not giving ourselves a chance.”
Batavia led 2-0 when junior Tyler Kledzik drove in a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, but things fell apart in the fifth inning with Batavia up, 2-1.
Petruzzi welcomed Lynum to the game with a leadoff triple in the top of the fifth, then scored when Kyle Ferguson hit a sinking line drive toward center field in the next at-bat.
Busby dove for the ball and missed. It rolled to the fence, and Ferguson hustled all the way around to score on the inside-the-park home run, delivering the Warriors a 3-2 lead in the process.
Batavia rallied in the bottom half after Greco hustled out an infield single against Willowbrook starter Matthew Pizur.
Greco stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Niemiec, who skied an 0-2 fastball toward right center field.
Greco finished 2 for 3 on and said he made the needed adjustments at the plate after his first at-bat.
“My first at-bat, I wasn’t seeing the ball early,” Greco said. “I was starting a little bit late. So I adjusted and wanted to see the ball out of his hand right away and try to turn on something. He left a fastball up and I threw my hands at it.”
Willowbrook has opened up its fast start as a result of winning close games.
“That’s what we’re going to be,” Warriors coach Vic Wisner said. “We’re good pitching, we’re good defense and we hit the ball just enough to get it done. We’re 4-1 and every single game has been a one-run game. This is the first non extra inning game, so that’s kind of our makeup, so our kids have been in that position. Just like (the Bulldogs) do, we’ve been focusing on making good contact, putting the ball in play and letting people make plays.”
Holm said the Bulldogs will take the loss in stride, learning from the early-season mistakes as they progress toward Upstate Eight River play beginning next week.
“I tell them right now, some guys are increasing time and increasing stock and other guys, you’ve got to perform,” Holm said. “That’s what these first days, this is like our spring trip, our preseason kind of before we get into next week with St. Charles East. It’ll be a tight conference race, so we’re just trying to see what the best options are all the way around.”