ROSELLE – Lake Park had an answer for every challenge St. Charles East threw at them Wednesday in Class 4A sectional semifinal action in Roselle.
The Saints came out swinging, starting the game with a home run from Carter Laskowski.
The Lancers quickly erased that deficit and built a 4-1 lead only to watch the Saints plate five runs in the fourth to go up 8-4 and put the No. 1 seed on the ropes.
Again Lake Park struck back, matching the five runs in the bottom of the fourth to go up 9-8. Tommy Klco came on in relief and shut the Saints out over the final three innings, giving the Lancers a 9-8 win in front of a large and loud crowd from both schools.
“That’s the big thing we have done with this club is when we are down we fight back and don’t go down without a fight,” Lancers shortstop Chris Worcester said. “It’s a testament to all the guys.”
Lake Park (30-4) will host No. 2 seed St. Charles North (29-3) for the sectional championship at 4:30 p.m. Friday. The Lancers won two out of three in their DuKane Conference games, and they will have Jackson Kent going — the Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit fanned 18 North Stars earlier this year.
Expect another big crowd. Lake Park coach Dan Colucci said the idea came up of moving the game to Boomers Stadium, but he preferred staying home where Lake Park is now 21-0.
It might have been 20-1 without Klco’s effort in relief. The lefty got the final two outs of the fourth, then allowed just one hit over the final three innings, striking out six and walking one. He worked a three-up, three-down seventh; first baseman Kent stretched high to save a throwing error to start the inning, then Klco got a groundball to short and a strikeout to end it.
“Tommy has been a great pitcher all year,” said Colucci, proud of his team’s ability to win a high-scoring game after entering with a 2.20 team ERA. “Normally we’re not in these type of games. Our bats bailed us out.
“That’s why this team is more of a complete team than we’ve had in a long time because we can hit, we can pitch, we can play defense, we are good on the bases. Our ability to come back was huge.”
Mason Baer doubled in the bottom of the first and scored on Worcester’s groundout to tie the game at 1-1. Lake Park scored three times off Dom Buono in the second, capitalizing on a slew off Saints infield mistakes. Max Baer’s 2-run single was the only hit.
Jack Lawson’s 2-run homer in the third off Lake Park starter Jason Gutkowski drew the Saints within 4-3, then a one-out double from No. 9 hitter A.J. Gaca started the 5-run fourth. Kyle Hayes and Seth Winkler both had 2-run singles, and Jake Sittella singled in another run.
“They came out swinging,” Colucci said. “Wind was blowing and they were taking advantage. We missed some spots with our pitches and they punished us.”
In Lake Park’s 5-run fourth, Max Baer, Danny Rollins, Worcester and Klco all had key hits. But the Saints (21-10), who committed 6 errors in one inning of a regular season loss to the Lancers, again contributed to Lake Park’s big inning with a dropped pop-up, not getting an out on an infield grounder that went as a fielder’s choice, and a wild pitch.
“We made way too many mistakes again,” Saints coach Len Asquini said. “This was very similar to our three games against them. The difference today was we had a little bit of offense to push them. This was another bad day for us defensively which was too bad because Dom threw a really solid ballgame.”
Worcester’s 2-run triple to deep center on an 0-2 pitch cut the Saints’ lead to 8-7. Worcester scored on a wild pitch to tie the game, then Klco drove home the eventual winning run with an opposite field single.
“My first two at-bats I had not too good of at-bats. He (Buono) was working me away up, I knew I had to lay off the high pitch,” Worcester said. “I got something to hit, and it felt really good after the tough two at-bats.”
Klco mostly mixed his fastball and change in his 3 2/3 scoreless innings, saying he enjoyed the energy from both crowds and dugouts — and expecting more of the same Friday.
“You feed off it,” Klco said. “You feed off the other team. They are talking, we are talking. It’s awesome.”