The inner fire within South Elgin’s baseball players wasn’t easily extinguished.
Trailing New Trier by 3 runs in the top of the seventh of Monday’s Class 4A supersectional at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg, the Storm jumped on two errors to draw within a run, had the tying run at second base and had their fans on the edges of their seats.
Cleanup man Adam Walker, batting .461, stepped to the plate against sidearming reliever Sean Douaire. After throwing one strike, Douaire induced an infield popup halfway up the first-base line. Trevians first baseman Anthony Calarco nearly overran the ball, but the 6-foot-4 junior squeezed it while falling backward to seal a 4-3 victory.
“Walker has been phenomenal all year and I really thought he’d come through, but that’s just how baseball is,” said South Elgin senior Kevin Barry, whose run-scoring double drew the Storm within 4-3. “He has nothing to be ashamed about. None of us do.”
New Trier (30-4) advances to a state semifinal against Crystal Lake South (34-5) at Silver Cross Field in Joliet on Friday at 3 p.m. The Gators defeated Mundelein 6-2 in the second game of Monday’s supersectional doubleheader at Boomers Stadium.
The game took a turn before it even started. South Elgin ace Nate Gomez (6-0), who shut down No. 1 sectional seed St. Charles North last Wednesday, was scheduled to start but was scratched by coach Jim Kating after he watched the junior right-hander throw approximately 8 pregame warmup pitches.
“I pulled him in the bullpen,” Kating said. “I didn’t like what I was seeing.”
The 11th-year coach instead opted to start right-hander Dylan Wells. The senior entered with a 6-1 record and 2.24 earned-run average.
Wells retired the Trevians in order in the first inning but Northwestern-committed junior Anthony Calarco stung him in the second. Batting left-handed, the switch hitter got the green light on a 3-0 pitch and blasted a high, inside fastball over the right-field fence to stake New Trier and pitcher Thomas Nugent to a 2-0 lead.
“I looked for a pitch up and in and I got it,” Calarco said of his second home run of the season. “I didn’t feel like I even hit it. That’s how good it felt.”
The Trevians added 2 runs in the third inning to take a 4-0 lead, thanks to senior Kevin Donahue’s sacrifice fly and a two-out single by junior Cam Redding that drove in senior Eric Nicholas.
South Elgin (25-5) got a run back in the fourth when Barry stole third and scored when the third baseman couldn’t wrangle the throw from the catcher, which ended up in left field.
In 5⅔ innings against Nugent (12-1), the Storm managed only 4 hits, 2 walks and a hit batsman. The right-hander was lifted in the sixth inning with the bases loaded in favor of Douaire, who struck out sophomore Patrick Keaty to preserve a 4-1 lead.
Things got hairy for New Trier in the top of the seventh. A one-out error at second base and a misjudged flyball off the bat of Gomez to center field that fell for an error allowed South Elgin to pull within 4-2.
Barry then drilled a run-scoring double to right-center field to make it a one-run game. However, Douaire recovered to retire Walker to end a deep South Elgin postseason incursion that netted the program’s second sectional title in the last four seasons.
“They came in with a fantastic attitude and they wanted this next step, to go downstate,” Kating said. “They talked about it at the beginning of the year. We fell short. We fell short.”
Though the Storm didn’t make it to Joliet, the opportunity to play for a state berth was something to cherish.
“Everybody thought we were going to win this because we believed even though nobody expected us to be here,” said Barry, who was responsible for 3 of South Elgin’s 5 hits. ” I’ve never been around a group of guys that’s bonded so hard. And a great coaching staff. It’s one of the best environments I’ll ever be part of and I’m going to miss it so much. I love these guys.”