LOCKPORT – Reagan King was upset.
Certainly not with the way he pitched. But when he saw Lincoln-Way West baseball coach Jake Zajc come out of the dugout with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, he knew he had reached his pitch count limit.
“I was like, ‘ahh, crap,’” King said. “‘I guess I’ve got to go out.’”
When King did, all the players in the Warrior dugout came out to greet him. Deservedly so. Because on this day, he certainly was king.
The junior right-hander pitched a two-hitter over 6 2/3 innings as No. 2 seeded Lincoln-Way West toppled top-seeded Lockport, 5-3, on Saturday in the title game of the Class 4A Lockport Sectional at Flink Field.
It is the first sectional championship for the Warriors (25-6-1) in their school history. They will face Brother Rice (34-5), a walk-off 2-1 winner over Mount Carmel at the Reavis Sectional, at 7:30 p.m. Monday in a supersectional at Ozinga Field in Crestwood.
The Porters (34-4) saw their 16-game winning streak snapped and finish an otherwise outstanding season a game short of their first sectional title since 2013. Their 34 wins were tied for the third-most in school history.
In the team’s two meetings during the season, Lockport won, 15-3, on March 31 in an opening-round game of the WJOL Tournament and then rallied to score the final six runs and win, 14-13, on April 14. Both games were at Flink Field.
This time, however, was different. Much of that was thanks to King, who struck out four, walked seven and hit a batter, but the junior made the key pitches when he needed to.
“It feels amazing, just amazing,” King said. “We did this. We worked hard all season for it. My fastball was up in velocity and I hit my spots. I just tried to get ahead and stay ahead.”
He was so efficient when he had to be that Zajc didn’t realize King had a two-hitter.
“Two hits? Wow, that’s impressive,” Zajc said. “I just kept worrying that one of those guys on Lockport would hit one out of the park. But going into this game, we knew we needed Reagan to go strong for us and he answered. He’s our guy and a team performer. The last thing I wanted to do is take him out.”
But he had to as King had reached the 115-pitch limit when he faced his last batter, a strikeout, in the bottom of the seventh. As King, who improved to 7-1, exited, his disappointment of leaving the game was made much better by the team greeting him.
“My team has stuck by me all year,” he said. “So to get this win and have them all come out on the field was great. It just felt surreal.”
Still, Lockport had a man on first as senior Griffin Brown had coaxed a one-out, full-count walk. Senior right-hander Carter LaMarche entered and Brown moved to second on a wild pitch. Then with a 1-2 count, LaMarche coaxed a grounder to the hole at short.
There junior Tyler Koscinski made a nice backhanded stab and fired across to senior first baseman Jacob Morris and Lincoln-Way West was sectional champions.
“Before that play, I just took a deep breath,” Koscinski said of the play coming to him. “I knew I had to make a backhand play and the rest is history.
“It feels amazing, it’s indescribable. It’s the first sectional title that we’ve ever won in baseball and it feels surreal.”
Koscinski, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup, had two of the Warrior’s six hits in the game. He doubled off the left-field fence with one out in the fourth and was stranded at third. But his bigger hit was when he poked a first-pitch single to left-center in the second to score Morris, who had walked with one out and went to second on a ground out, with the game’s first run.
“I just found a pitch to hit,” Koscinski said of his run-scoring single. “I just wanted to help my team. Reagan is probably our best pitcher. He brings energy. He kept control and we got a really big win.”
The Warriors added to their lead in the third. Junior Cam Buckley led off with a perfect bunt that went for a single and he went to second on one of Lockport’s four errors in the game. Sophomore Cole Crafton then walked and junior Kaleb Wilkey moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt.
Senior Brandon Pritchard then delivered a first-pitch, two-run single to center, and Lincoln-Way West led 3-0.
“We had popped some pitches up, so I just stayed back and drove it on the ground,” Pritchard said of the hit. “It felt good.”
Lockport, which had one runner in the first three innings on a walk, tied the game with three runs in the fourth. Brown led off with a line double down the left-field line. Senior Victor Izquierdo walked and so did junior Anthony Martinez.
Brown scored on a wild pitch, Izquierdo scored when an errant throw to third hit him in the back, and Martinez scored on an RBI groundout by senior Lucas Pajeau.
King, who had a five-inning relief appearance to get the win in a 5-2 victory over Lincoln-Way Central this past Monday in the title game of the Shepard Regional, issued a two-out hit by pitch and walk. But he got a fly-out to center to end the inning.
“I just took a couple of deep breathes,” King said of escaping the fourth. “But I knew we were still tied. I just had to slow down and keep it there.”
He did, stranding a runner, after a walk, in the fifth. Then allowing his second hit of the game, a one-out single to right-center by senior Matt Merk, followed by a walk, in the sixth. But King escaped by getting a strikeout and a fielder’s choice out at second to end the inning.
In the meantime, the Warriors took the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. Senior Luke Swallow led off with a single to right, went to second on a sacrifice by Buckley, and third on an errant pick-off. He scored when Crafton singled to right on a 1-0 count.
Wilkey followed with a single to right-center, moving Crafton to third. Pritchard then hit a sacrifice fly to center as Crafton crossed the plate to make it 5-3.
“We tip our caps to Lincoln-Way West and tip our caps to their pitcher,” Lockport coach Scott Malinowski said. “He threw the ball well. We hit the ball hard but their defense made the plays, highlighted by the last play of the game. They earned it and we wish them luck the rest of the way.”