Baseball: St Charles North sweeps LarkinSt. Charles North's Ankur Shah (7) delivers a pitch during their game against St. Charles North Larkin in St. Charles Thursday. April 19, 2012. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 19, 2012 9:10PM
Numbers nerds known as baseball sabermetricians like to argue that there is no such thing as a clutch hitter, but it would have been hard Thursday to deny St. Charles North had a few.
Seniors Nick Gilmore and John Hondlik, in particular, delivered clutch hits to lift the Stars to a 6-1 victory at home over Larkin in Upstate Eight River play for a three-game series sweep.
“In that situation, you need to be a lot more focused,” said Gilmore. “It’s basically in that situation you’ve got the chance to help the team and you need to focus extra and make contact.”
Gilmore delivered a two-run, two-out first-inning single and a fourth-inning, two-out RBI single, while Brodner opened the scoring for the Stars with a two-run, two-out second-inning RBI single off losing pitcher Kyle Newquist (2-1). They helped make a winner of Ankur Shah (2-1), who did a lot to help himself in that regard by allowing only four hits over five innings of work.
“Coach (Todd) Genke does a lot of pitching away in practice — that, and we’ve been practicing a lot on 0-2 counts so we can put it in play,” Gilmore said.
The Stars (9-7, 6-3) trailed immediately 1-0 when Jack Eckholm walked and stole second before coming home on Newquist’s own clutch hit — a two-out, RBI single. But the Stars came right back with two in the first on Gilmore’s first hit. Then they scored three more in the second on a squeeze bunt by Kurt Barbeau and Brodner’s two-run single.
“Confidence is a funny thing because when you don’t have any, it seems to be contagious and guys are just up there feeling for the ball,” Genke said. “But when guys do have confidence it seems like it does spread throughout the lineup. Guys looked today like they couldn’t wait to hit.
“And Newquist is a good pitcher who gave us fits last year. We had talked about hitting the other way and making adjustments and I thought we did that well today.”
Larkin (6-11, 3-6) continued struggling with the bats on a cold day with the wind blowing in — and Shah dominating. He struck out four in five innings and walked two before Saywer Chambers threw two hitless innings of relief.
“We got three quality starts in this series, which made a big difference, obviously,” Genke said.
The Royals have scored just four runs in losing four straight. They struck out eight times Thursday and six times were caught looking.
“We showed a little bit of progress at the beginning of the game, but then reverted back to our form of the last few games,” coach Matt Esterino said.
“Up and down the lineup, we need practice badly, which is what we’re going to get tomorrow before our doubleheader Saturday (with Geneva).
“The good news is our pitching is coming around, and our defense has been solid.”
Cody Bilger relieved Newquist, who struggled for his second straight start, and pitched 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball.
The Royals threw out four Stars on the bases, including two would-be base stealers by catcher Niko Morado.
“He’s played that way all year,” Esterino said of his catcher.