Baseball: Bobby Kuntzendorf settles down, leads Aurora Christian to regional final
Updated: May 16, 2012 9:13PM
In the world of IHSA postseason baseball, where one bad day can erase a season full of domination, teams can never take anything for granted.
So despite coming into Wednesday’s Class 2A Seneca Regional semifinal against Plano with a 24-8 record and the top seed, with unbeaten Northern Illinois signee Bobby Kuntzendorf on the hill, Aurora Christian still had some anxious moments.
For the first time all season, a team jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on Kuntzendorf.
“I was a little nervous, especially when it’s one-and-done,” Aurora Christian coach Andy Zorger said. “You never know what can happen.”
Eventually the Eagles reverted back to their regular form, putting together a four-run second inning to take the lead and pulling away for a 6-2 win. Kuntzendorf struck out 12 and scattered five hits in six innings to improve to 10-0 and send the Eagles to Saturday’s 11 a.m. regional title game against the winner of Thursday’s Aurora Central Catholic/Coal City game.
“I came out pretty flat,” Kuntzendorf said. “It was some D-plus work for me today. I knew we were going to come through. It was the first inning. We had to get by. We just had to get through that inning and I knew we were going to battle back and score runs. That’s how we are.”
Plano (14-23) struck quickly as Trent Bowers singled in Kelby Gann and Devin Ambrose scored on a double steal to open a 2-0 lead.
“I kind of feel like (the 2006 Bears in Super Bowl XLI), you run the opening kickoff back and you have all the confidence in the world and they take it to you the rest of the game,” Plano coach Bryan Phillips said.
Aurora Christian plated four runs in the second off of Kyle Doney (1-4) to take the lead for good. The Eagles scored a run on an error, RBI groundouts from J.T. Baksha and Ian Livingston and an RBI double from Kuntzendorf. Kuntzendorf added an RBI single in the fourth and another Livingston RBI groundout in the fifth scored the sixth and final run.
“I was proud of the way we battled in the second when we got guys on and took advantage of a mistake,” Zorger said. “That’s two big run-scoring groundouts. That’s something we haven’t done too well, putting the ball in play with less than two outs and a runner on third.”
Kuntzendorf was hard on himself when assessing his outing, but the numbers don’t lie. When it was all said and done, he wound up with his normal dominant outing. Mitch Holtz, who will start Saturday’s game, struck out the side in the seventh to end it.
“Bobby did settle in a little bit,” Zorger said. “I still never felt like he was in total command. He was effective. That’s the thing about him, he doesn’t have to be at his best to be effective.”
Holtz has been sharp since coming back from a knee injury at the start of May, going 2-0, and he will get the nod with a regional title on the line Saturday.
“We’ve got Mitch on the hill and he’s going to throw strikes as you saw today,” Kuntzendorf said. “He’s a big, strong kid. As soon as (his knee injury) happened, he was determined to get back before the playoffs. We’re happy to have him back and ready for him to get a ‘W’ for us on Saturday.”