CAROL STREAM – Kyle Niemiec needed to atone for a mistake. Or at least what was called a mistake.
After lining a ball down the line for what appeared to be a leadoff double to begin the second inning, it was ruled that he missed first base and was called out, erasing his double.
Fortunately for the senior outfielder, he got a chance to redeem himself. Niemiec came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded, one out and the Batavia baseball team tied with Willowbrook at one.
Niemiec drilled a first-pitch fastball over the center fielder's head, clearing the bases to give Batavia a lead it would relinquish in a 4-1, nonconference victory Tuesday at Lee Pfund Stadium at Legion Field.
"It was a big momentum changer," Niemiec said of his mishap. "They had a whole shift to the left in that last at-bat, so I was trying to keep my hands in and look to go away. He left one right down the middle. That's a hitter's dream, to come up with the bases loaded. Good teams take advantage of opportunities and we did that today. Our seniors came up big."
Batavia (3-0) seized the opportunity to have Niemiec come up with the bases loaded after Willowbrook starter Matt Garbacz hit No. 2 hitter Tyler Kledzik after allowing a one-out single to leadoff hitter Jimmy Roach.
Luke Beckmann followed Kledzik and hit a fly ball to shallow center field, which seemed to be lost in the sun by a couple of Willowbrook outfielders. Niemiec came up and saw a first pitch he didn't miss to give Batavia a three-run advantage.
The Bulldogs got on the board when 6-foot-6 junior Glenn Albanese hit a triple down the right field line and scored on a sacrifice fly from Andrew Costigan to tie the game at one in the fifth inning.
"I think that really got the offensive momentum going," Batavia coach Matt Holm said. "We haven't had too much of a hole, one through nine, in the order, especially when you have a guy like Glenn that can leg out a triple. I thought they might pull [Garbacz] after that, but we got his pitch count up a little and took advantage of our chances late."
Batavia remained in the game despite tallying just one hit through the first four innings – not counting Niemiec's hit before missing first, which waas not ruled a hit – thanks in large part to its bullpen.
After usually reliable senior southpaw Ben Lynam pitched just 2 1/3 innings, the Bulldogs needed some strong innings from their relievers – which they got, and then some.
Not only did Lynam depart earlier than Holm was accustomed, but he was forced to bring in fellow senior southpaw Michael Fossali in a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
Fossali struck out the next two batters to end the threat and jump-started 4 2/3 scoreless innings from the Bulldogs' bullpen. Fossali gave way to junior Ethan Krumwiede, who picked up his first varsity win, followed by sophomore Jared Martin getting the save in the seventh.
"Our bullpen, I think, is the best we've ever had," said Fossali, whose outing Tuesday morning was his first of the season. "I was nervous coming into the game, but I was confident with my curveball and threw it a lot. I was just trying to get a ball in play and turn two. It obviously worked out better striking out both."
Willowbrook (2-3) felt pretty good after chasing Lynam from the game as early as it did, but coach Vic Wisner knows leaving 12 men on base, which his team did Tuesday, is not part of an equation to defeat quality baseball teams.
"When you have two really good teams, it comes down to a pitch here or pitch there and who takes advantage of it," Wisner said. "We just couldn't get the extra hit today. Usually in high school when you see the third and fourth pitcher on a team, you think you're in a good spot. It's two really good teams, though, and every time we play each other, it's a good game."
The Bulldogs are back in action at Pfund Stadium at 10 a.m. Thursday, as the away team, against Naperville North.