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'Contagious' approach keys big inning, sends Batavia baseball past East in sectional semi

Bulldogs, North Stars set for 4A Schaumburg Sectional championship

SCHAUMBURG – When the Batavia baseball team's bats are going well, the Bulldogs are as tough a team to pitch to as there is in Class 4A.

After not sending more than four batters to the plate in any of the first four innings, the Bulldogs came alive in the fifth Friday afternoon.

Batavia sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight runs en route to an 11-7 victory over St. Charles East to advance to Saturday's 4A Schaumburg Sectional championship game against another Tri-Cities rival in St. Charles North.

Though just two of the eight runs in the breakout inning were earned to East pitchers, Batavia showed what its capable of if given extra outs in an inning.

"It's contagious. Today we knew (East starter Steve Podany) pounds the zone and throws strikes," Batavia coach Matt Holm said. "We knew he had good command and we just had to be patient. Once we did that, things were a little better."

Big hits on the day for the Bulldogs came on home runs from Ben Lynam (three-run home run), Tyler Munoz (his first of the season) and Luke Beckmann (solo shot in the seventh).

Munoz also had a two-run single in the fifth after one of three East errors on the day. A flyout by No. 9 hitter Jared Martin should have ended the inning, but instead was just the second out before five straight Bulldogs batters reached base to push the lead to as large as seven.

"It was a great feeling tying up the game, especially when you're this far in the playoffs at this point. It brings excitement to the team," said Munoz, whose smile and fist pump rounding first were noticeable to most in attendance. "I really think it's something that's contagious. Once we get loud in the dugout, we can't stop. We want to keep going."

"We've been hitting the ball extremely well this postseason," added Holm of his team's 34 runs in its first three playoff games. "It's not the hitting I'm worried about. It's getting outs."

Even with the eight-run fifth, East would not let the Bulldogs breathe lightly for much of Friday's contest.

In fact, the Saints answered with four runs of their own, batting around in the sixth inning. A two-run, pinch-hit single by Monty Carbonell and RBI base hit by leadoff hitter Corbin Marucco trimmed a once seven-run deficit to 10-7. East even got the potential go-ahead run to the plate in senior third baseman Jimmy Dale with the bases loaded and two outs.

After fouling a few tough pitches off from Lynam, facing his first batter in relief of Glenn Albanese (8-3), the Batavia southpaw struck out Dale on a 3-2 pitch to end the threat.

"I came in there extremely confident," Lynam said. "I knew I had to come in and throw strikes and trust that if the ball was put in play, my defense was there to have my back."

Beckmann's home run provided the slight insurance, as Lynam finished off his save with a 1-2-3 seventh inning that included two strikeouts.

For East, the deficit that seemed insurmountable turned out to be just that. Though Len Asquini coached his Saints to the program's first regional title since 2013, the mistakes and extra outs given to Batavia were just too much to overcome.

"The fifth inning was not good for us. That's been something that has been our Achilles heel for most of this season," Asquini said. "We get caught in that little rut and then just gave up too much. I love the fight. I love the way we fought back in the ballgame. ... We didn't go quietly and I wouldn't expect anything less, especially from this senior group."

Next up for Holm, who plans to retire at season's end after 24 years at the helm, is rival North (30-6). The North Stars have swept Batavia in each of the past two seasons, but the feeling around the Bulldogs is a confident one.

The two will take the field at Schaumburg at 11 a.m. Saturday. North looks for its first ever sectional title, while Holm and the Bulldogs have sights set on their first since 2009.

When asked how much of the postseason run has to do with wanting to continue Holm's career, Lynam smiled and had a very simple answer.

"All of it," he said. "We want to keep this going for him."

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