PALATINE – Palatine’s baseball team enjoyed some spring-break fun in the sun Thursday — in Illinois, no kidding.
But the Pirates, battling visiting York in chilly but fairly comfortable conditions, didn’t get to beam collectively until they took their first lead with a five-run sixth inning in a dramatic 7-6 victory.
“I’m proud of the way we competed,” said Palatine coach Paul Belo, whose club fell behind 4-0 in the first frame and trailed 6-2 after five innings in the nonconference game.
Pirates second baseman and No. 8 hitter Tony Iliopoulos wielded the most productive bat for the hosts, going 2-for-4 (2B) with two RBIs, including a run-scoring single between first and second base that kick-started the pivotal sixth inning.
“My last few games, I struck out a lot,” Iliopoulos, a right-handed hitter, said. “I wasn’t seeing the ball. On my at-bat (in the sixth), I waited for the ball (to get deep in the zone).
“Real good win, real good team win,” he added. “We all clicked, late. I knew we had a win like this in us.”
Palatine (2-4) plated the winning run on a 2-out passed ball in the sixth, after Pirates third baseman Aiden Wimer had capped his potent day at the plate (3-4, 2 2Bs, RBI) with the game-tying RBI single down the third-base line.
Earlier, Palatine shortstop and leadoff hitter Carter Monroe’s single put Pirates on first and third, setting up starting pitcher/designated hitter Toby Peterson’s RBI single to right field that cut the Dukes’ lead to 6-4.
“Our hitters picked us up,” said Palatine winning pitcher Sean Wasserman (1-0), who provided some significant lifting himself, fanning 4 and walking only 1 in 3 2/3rd innings of scoreless relief.
Wasserman kept York’s hitters off balance, after Peterson had allowed 4 earned runs and 5 hits and struck out 8 in the first 3 1/3rd innings.
Three Palatine errors in the first inning’s top half, which lasted 17 minutes, helped York scoot to a 4-0 lead. First baseman Jack Braun (2-4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBI) connected for a 2-run double to open the scoring. A run-scoring single to shallow right-center by York’s Jack Rozmus made it 3-0, and Ryan Turner followed with an RBI via a fielder’s choice.
Iliopoulos ripped an RBI-double to left-center for Palatine’s first run off starter Brendan Fleming (4 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER, 2 Ks) in the second inning.
York second baseman Nico Ruggieri’s 1-out single up the middle upped the Dukes’ advantage to 6-2 in the fourth.
It was all Palatine from there.
“It came down to execution — we didn’t execute,” York coach Dave Kalal said after his club slipped to 1-2-1. “We didn’t make the pitches when we needed to make them. We didn’t finish, either; we have to learn how to do that, and we will. We sat on a 6-2 lead but didn’t do much after that. And you can’t strike out 12 times like we did.
“At least the sun was shining,” he added.
Reliever Noah Hughes (1 2/3rd IP, 3 ER, 2 Ks) took the loss.
York’s No. 9 hitter, Eli Maurer, went 3-for-3, including a bunt single after a walk to third baseman Mason Balfanz in the top of the fourth.
Balfanz made the defensive play of the day on a 1-out, bases-packed grounder in the third. The sharply hit ball off the bat of Palatine’s Ryan Wagner squirted out of Balfanz’s glove. The Duke then calmly picked up the ball in front of him, stepped on third for a force-out and threw home to complete a double play and preserve the 4-2 lead.
Palatine’s Nate Branch walked twice in 4 plate appearances.
“We knew the type of team — a well-coached team — we’d have to face today,” Belo said. “What York did to us in the first half of the game was what we were able to do in the second half.
“We battled. We did a nice job staying in it.”
“It felt good,” Iliopoulos said of the sun, though that exact sentiment could have also easily applied to the win. “I felt warm out there.”