STILLMAN VALLEY – Marengo figured to add to its historic baseball season Wednesday and tack some more onto its list of accomplishments, especially with ace Caden Vogt on the hill.
But Rockford Christian pitcher Will Lavery silenced the Indians’ sticks, and Marengo’s defense suffered letdowns on all of the Royal Lions’ runs.
Lavery finished the seventh the way he started the first, with an economical seven pitches for a perfect inning as the Royal Lions defeated the Indians 3-2 in their Class 2A Stillman Valley Sectional semifinal.
Rockford Christian advances to Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship game against the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Wheaton Academy and Byron.
“It was a great season. It will always be a memory for me,” said Vogt, a senior left-hander who finished at 8-2. “I’m just glad to do it with this group. We definitely could have at least made it until Saturday. Who knows what would have happened then? But we should have won today.”
Marengo (22-8) finished with the school record for wins, a Kishwaukee River Conference championship and its first regional title since 2004. Yet the Indians left the park Wednesday longing for more.
“Today didn’t go the way we wanted, but I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” center fielder Carter Heimsoth said. “We have a lot of young guys on the team, but man, they have bright futures. Winning is not easy, especially in baseball, anything can happen. But a school record for wins, conference win, regional win, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Lavery, a senior right-hander, had pitched in Rockford Christian’s past two elimination games in the postseason and was determined not to have that happen again. He threw 82 pitches, struck out five and got through the first inning with six pitches, and the last three innings with a combined 20.
“The four-seam and the two-seam [fastball] were both working, and my slider had some nice break,” Lavery said. “I was really getting hitters off balance. The adrenaline rush out there, it was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in.”
Rockford Christian (18-5) scored in the third when Marengo right fielder Cody Stallings narrowly missed on a sliding catch that resulted in Kyrkan Johnson’s double. Justin Gorski knocked him in with a single.
Marengo got singles from Andrew Johnson and David Lopez in the top of the fourth, then had some good fortune when Royal Lions second baseman Kyrkan Johnson and right fielder Guy Bucciferro collided chasing after Aaron Schroeder’s blooper. It landed in the grass for two RBIs.
The Royal Lions came back with an unearned run in each of the next two innings.
“Caden threw the ball extremely well,” Indians coach Nick Naranjo said. “Every time he throws, he gives us an opportunity, and today he did that. Unfortunately, we just didn’t make the routine plays behind him.”
Rockford Christian coach Mike Mather was happy for Lavery.
“He’s a senior, and he’s pitched our last two games we’ve been eliminated in,” Mather said. “He came out and shoved today and threw really well for us.
“He was just throwing strikes with his fastball and breaking ball, just getting ahead and a lot of early contact, which helped with his pitch count, and just letting his defense work. We have a good defense. Other than one blunder that cost us two runs we played really solid.”
Vogt threw 112 pitches and struck out nine while allowing five hits and one earned run. Andrew Johnson was 2 for 3 with a run scored for the Indians.
“It was memorable. That’s something we hung our hat on,” Naranjo said. “We’re really proud of them. We set out goals to do those things and to accomplish those things with the seniors we have and contributions they made, it’s nice to send them out with that.”
Class 2A Stillman Valley Sectional
Rockford Christian 3, Marengo 2
Marengo 000 200 0 – 2 7 2
Rockford Christian 001 110 x – 3 5 0
WP: Will Lavery (7IP, 7H, 2R, 2ER, 1BB, 5K). LP: Caden Vogt, 8-2 (6IP, 5H, 3R, 1ER, 1BB, 9K).
Top hitters–Marengo: Andrew Johnson 2-3 (R), Aaron Schroeder 1-3 (2RBIs). Rockford Christian: Justin Gorski 1-3 (RBI), Kyrkan Johnson 2-2 (2B, R), Devan Bruggeman 2-2.