ST. CHARLES – St. Charles North’s baseball team hopes to recapture the magic of last year’s third-place state finish when state tournament play begins May 24 at North’s own regional.
The latest bit of magic came May 15.
Zach Mettetal’s walk-off two-run home run gave the North Stars (26-4) a 5-3 win against St. Charles East in the series opener, clinching the Upstate Eight River and providing a dramatic prelude to the state title quest to come.
“The biggest thing for us is our chemistry as a team,” said SCN star third baseman Sam Faith, the Athlete of the Month for April sponsored by St. Charles Toyota. “We all know each other’s strengths as players, and we all have the same goals, the same drive.
“We’re looking forward to the rest of the season. ... It’s an exciting time for us and all of St. Charles.”
A 19-game winning streak ended with a 4-1 loss against Cary-Grove on May 9, and a young Downers Grove South clipped North 8-7 in the next game May 11, but the Stars saw the setbacks as learning experiences.
“I like where we are – we’re the No. 1 seed in the sectional for a reason,” SCN coach Todd Genke said. “We’ve played good baseball all season, but those type of games are potential playoff games against quality teams. It’s a reminder that your season can end in a hurry.”
Faith was 3 for 5, and Tyler Mettetal, Tommy Nelson and Conor Bizik all had two hits in the 8-7 loss to Downers South.
Genke praised Faith’s efforts in the losses – and all season. Faith started hot out of the gate and has kept up the tear, batting a team-best .506 with a team-high 37 RBIs.
“Sam Faith has been phenomenal,” Genke said. “Potentially he’s going to be an All-American – he’s putting up those kinds of numbers.”
Faith has no doubt been impressive, but so have a number of his teammates, many of whom have taken on larger varsity roles this spring.
“Zach Mettetal’s been phenomenal at short, and on the mound Ryan Litavecz has been lights out for us as well,” Genke said. “And younger guys like Tommy Nelson and Sean Krueger have played well, and Sean Nemetz behind the plate has done a masterful job.
“It’s a true team effort. Our lineup keeps coming at you 1 through 9. And Anthony Delisi at the top has been a difference-maker. We put him in the leadoff spot a month ago, and he’s really taken off.”
Facing opponents who can make their season by defeating a defending state medalist, the Stars still have soared.
“Coach has been preaching from Day 1 that we’re going to have a big target on our backs,” Faith said. “We had a great season last year, the best North’s ever had, and every team wants to do whatever they can to get a win. We have to compete well and not let up in any game.”
“You have to come to work every day and be ready,” Genke said. “The kids have done a great job of that. That’s fun to have a target on your back. It means you’ve done something meaningful.”
Even with standout pitcher Tim Hasto sidelined by injury, the Stars feel the depth and talent is there for another great finish.
“We have a lot of kids going on to play college ball next year, and a lot of experience from last year,” Faith said. “We want to battle every pitch, pull out wins and hopefully make another big run.”