GENEVA – Josh Caccia maintained total faith.
Caccia, the St. Charles North junior starting pitcher, was riding strong with a slim one-run lead and six strikeouts 3 2/3 innings into his Class 4A regional semifinal start against Glenbard North on Wednesday.
But, with a mindful eye toward personal arm maintenance, the ball was entrusted in Cole Schertz to finish the job he started.
Schertz did so in fine fashion by combining with Caccia for a one-hitter and prevail 1-0 over the Panthers.
“Knowing Cole was coming in after me, I had total faith him. I know he’d get the job done, no matter the situation,” Caccia said.
“For me, I got to believe in myself,” Schertz added. “I got to know I’m the best guy out there for the job, and it’s my responsibility to shut it down. It’s nothing else that can be done.”
The Panthers’ only hit came on a leadoff single in the seventh inning by Tyler Walsh. The North Stars’ power duo combined for eight strikeouts to send the North Stars (24-8-1) to a regional final date with either Geneva or Batavia at 10 a.m. Saturday in Geneva.
The North Stars’ lone run came in the second inning after a pair of singles from Brad Lins and Edge Ritter. With Keaton Reinke at the plate, a wild pitch from Panthers starter Steve Hobbs allowed runners to advance to second and third. Moments later, Ritter was briefly caught in a rundown situation, and it allowed Lins enough time to run safely home for the game’s only run.
The Panthers (10-21) weren’t without genuine chances, however.
In the third inning, Mike Banish reached on a fielder’s choice to get the Panthers going. After Jacob Christman struck out, Sam Palmer reached on a hit-by-pitch, and Nick Schenkel walked. Hobbs then crushed a liner to shortstop, but North Stars senior Jackson Spring made a web gem of a diving catch to end the inning and prevent what could’ve been the go-ahead runs from scoring.
“He makes every hard play seem easy, and just any ball right behind me to my right side, I know he’s getting an out for us,” Caccia said of Spring.
Glenbard North also threatened in the fifth inning after Reinke made a one-out error on a fly ball to left by Christman to put him on, but Schertz retired Palmer and Schenkel to end the inning.
In the seventh, Walsh’s single started a potential rally and Josh Christman followed with an artful sacrifice bunt to advance him to second. A groundout moved him to third, but a sharp lineout to center ended the game.
“When you can pitch the ball like that, we’ve got a good chance to beat anybody,” North Stars coach Todd Genke said. “I thought our defense was phenomenal... Obviously, everybody works on their defense, but you got to show up in the playoffs. Just really proud of the way we competed and battled.
“It’s tough beating a team four times in about three weeks,” Genke continued. “I give [Glenbard] a lot of credit. I thought their kid [Hobbs] pitched really well. We were prepared for him. Hat’s off to him. But, I thought Josh set the tone and and I thought Cole delivered like he he’s done all season. He’s just an animal on the mound and he comes right at you.”
Hobbs, in his final varsity game, pitched a complete game and had five strikeouts.
“I’ve played with all these kids since I was young,” said Hobbs, who will now go play collegiate baseball at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. “I knew we got swept by them earlier in the season and I was just coming in hopefully to get the win. I couldn’t have asked for anything else from these boys today. We played amazing, and some hard-hit balls didn’t fall. Ww played really well; just didn’t come our way today.”