Baseball: 2-out heroics lift York to regional title over St. Charles East

Lake Park next up for Dukes

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ELMHURST – York’s baseball team was at its best in two-out situations May 25.

Powered by Josh Fleming’s solo home run and Drew Gami’s two-run single, the third-seeded Dukes turned an early 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 first-inning lead They added a pair of insurance runs in the fifth inning on junior catcher Owen Chael’s two-run home run in a 6-4 victory over No. 8 St. Charles East in the Class 4A Elmhurst Regional championship.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight [May 22] with Wheaton North [a 2-1 win],” York coach Dave Kalal said, “and we knew it was going to be another dogfight today with St. Charles East. Thankfully, we were able to score all six of our runs after two outs.”

The Dukes (28-9) capitalized on a few extra chances at the plate. An infield error allowed Gami to step into the batter’s box in the first inning. Fleming’s sky-high infield popup went for a single after being lost in the sun, giving Chael an at-bat in the fifth.

“I always go up to the plate thinking the first pitch is going to be a fastball, so I was sitting fastball and I just wanted to poke something up the middle,” Chael said of attacking the first pitch for his third home run of the season. “It was left down the middle and I took advantage of it and hit it down the [left-field] line. It got some elevation and went over [the fence].”

The Saints (14-14), who scored two runs in the top of the first on James Feigelson’s RBI single and an infield throwing error, pulled to within 4-3 on an RBI single by Antonio Perez in the fourth.

In the fifth, the Saints chased York southpaw starting pitcher Noah Hughes (4 2/3 innings pitched, eight strikeouts) after loading the bases with two outs on singles by Sam Frausto and Mac Paul sandwiched around a walk to Joey Arend. Fleming saved the tying run from scoring with a diving stop of Paul’s infield single at shortstop.

Senior right-handed reliever Chris Danko then came in and escaped the jam with a strikeout.

“I was definitely excited. I knew the adrenaline was pumping,” said Danko, who allowed one hit and a walk with three strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings while recording the save. “I did the same thing in the Wheaton North game the other day, coming in with two outs, so it was something I had done before. I thought I was ready going into that situation.”

Danko’s job became a little easier after Chael’s fifth-inning long ball.

“I was the first one out there when Owen hit the home run,” Danko said. “I was like, ‘Man, you just took so much off my shoulders.’ ”

York advanced to a St. Charles North Sectional semifinal clash with No. 2 Lake Park (28-8) on Wednesday.

“Everybody has contributed to the success of the team this year,” Kalal said. “Our core group of guys – Danko, [Ryan] Sloan, Fleming, Hughes – they’ve won three regional titles in a row, something that has never been done in the history of our school. We’re happy to be moving on.”

The Saints graduate nine seniors – Frausto, Paul, Jack Bennett, Jake Greenspan, Devin Minarik, Cole Ridgway, Cal Sitarz, Andrew Smerz and Carson Stephens.

“I’ve always preached to them about staying level-headed and the team didn’t quit,” Saints first-year coach Derek Sutor said. “This year was fun. There was a ton of stuff that I took in and I look forward to building upon.

“The history of this program is not rebuilding but reloading. There’s a bunch of talent coming up. The future is extremely bright.”