Aurora Christian advances on walkoff
Updated: May 21, 2011 4:55PM
As Josh Haugen’s long fly ball fell safely beyond the yellow piping above the centerfield sign that read “350”, his arms shot into the air with pure joy, and with a tinge of relief.
Haugen’s solo homerun off Lisle reliever Kazim Khan was of the walk-off variety, giving top-seeded Aurora Christian a 3-2 win over the second-seeded Lions in the Lisle Regional championship game Saturday afternoon at Lisle Community Park.
The Lions had beaten the Eagles 5-4 earlier in the season and ended their season last year with an 11-1 regional final victory.
“It feels good, finally, get past that hump,” Haugen said with a smile.
The Eagles advance to sectional play for the second time in school history and will face Latin in the Benedictine University Sectional semifinal on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
“One game in the postseason, anything can happen,” Eagles coach Andy Zorger said. “It’s not best of three, it’s not best of five, and we were fortunate enough to get a big hit when we needed it.”
Aurora Christian (28-6) trotted ace Bobby Kuntzendorf to the mound on full rest, but the junior left-hander was fighting himself for most of the day with four walks, a hit batsman and 123 pitches in a complete game effort.
Lisle managed just five hits, but had runners reach scoring position in four innings and had the leadoff man reach six times. Yet, the Lions scratched across just two runs on a third-inning single by Kevin Coppin and fourth inning fielder’s choice by Nick Thome.
“I obviously didn’t have my best stuff, I was a little wild, but I battled through it and my defense came up huge,” Kuntzendorf said. “You have to try to bounce back and pitch and tune everything else out. Once base runners get on you’ve got a whole different mindset, a different set of signs and you just have to focus in, tell yourself you’ll be alright, hunker down and throw strikes.”
On the surface, it seemed as if the Lions “got to” Kuntzendorf (9-0), who had only allowed eight earned runs in his previous 14 appearances (63 2/3 innings), yet they couldn’t seem to get that one extra hit when runner’s advanced to scoring position.
“I didn’t know what we were going to do with Kuntzendorf because he’s so good and we just battled him and had some real good at-bats,” Lisle coach Pete Meyer said. “To have runners on second with less than two outs three times, and that’s how good he is. He changes the way he pitches when runners get on. He’s a really good pitcher. You’ve got to take your hat off to them. They’re a really good team.”
Lisle starter Ryan Burlison was just as effective as his counterpart, allowing two unearned runs through 4 1/3 innings. Aurora Christian got on the board in the third when Jake Hanson scored after a Coppin throwing error on a Haugen grounder. Mitch Holtz then followed with a run scoring single.
Khan came on in relief with Haugen aboard in the fifth. He allowed a single to Holtz before getting out of the inning. He worked a scoreless sixth and retired Hanson before facing Haugen in the bottom of the seventh.
“It was looking fastball, and it was a fastball – right there,” Haugen said, bringing his hand belt high. “It’s a big boost for us. It feels pretty good to finally beat them.”