Baseball: Illinois Lutheran outlasts Lena-Winslow for state semifinals berth
By Pat Disabato email@example.com June 2, 2014 10:45PM
Pitcher Sam Geraci (second from left) is rushed by Illinois Lutheran teammates after their win over Lena-Winslow. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 4, 2014 6:23AM
It’s been a record-setting season for Illinois Lutheran.
The Chargers broke the school-record for most wins in school history (21, in 2013) and Saturday claimed their first sectional championship.
Now they’ll be experiencing their first state semifinal.
Illinois Lutheran erupted for four runs in the top of the first inning during Monday’s Class 1A Benedictine Supersectional and held on for a 4-2 victory over Lena-Winslow.
The Chargers (26-2) advance to play Argenta-Oreana in a semifinal Friday at Peoria’s Dozer Park. Lena-Winslow closed at 19-9.
“We bunched our hits together in the first inning,” Illinois Lutheran coach Mark Kjenstad said. “We’ve been waiting for that. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Neither could the performance Sam Geraci produced on the mound. In his first start of the postseason, Geraci allowed four hits, walked two and struck out 12, including eight looking.
“That’s what I expected out of an All-State senior,” Kjenstad said.
Illinois Lutheran took advantage of two costly first-inning errors by Lena-Winslow that set the table for the four-run outburst. Grant Farmer’s single drove in Geraci for the first run of the game. With two outs, Evan Falk, Jared Buzan and Mack Newson registered consecutive singles, accounting for two more runs and a 3-0 spread.
“I saw a fastball and hit it up the middle,” said Newson, a Steger resident. “It was good that we jumped on them early.”
A wild pitch with Chris Falk at the plate allowed Buzan to scamper home for a 4-0 advantage.
“The four-spot settled me down and let me get into a groove,” said Geraci, also of Steger. “I felt good out there.”
The Chargers had a chance to pad their lead in the fifth inning, loading the bases with no outs on a single by Farmer and walks to Collin Borns and Evan Falk. Kjenstad called for a suicide squeeze that backfired. Buzan popped the ball up and Winslow pitcher Ben Moest not only caught it, but fired to third base for a double play. An infield single by Newson reloaded the bases, but Chris Falk flied out to end the inning.
“I felt like four runs was going to be enough to win the game and was hoping to catch them by surprise,” Kjenstad said. “Maybe some over-coaching right there.”
Geraci hadn’t allowed a hit through four innings, but surrendered three straight singles in the fifth. He settled down to strike out Josh Prindle and get Dan Rogers to hit into a catcher’s unassisted fielder’s choice. A fielding error, however, allowed Lena-Winslow to score two runs to cut the deficit to 4-2.