Baseball: South Elgin makes all the right moves in sectional winSouth Elgin's David Goins scores a run Wednesday during sectional semifinal action against Rockton Hononegah at Petersen Park in McHenry. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 30, 2012 11:58PM
Overall execution was the one glaring difference between South Elgin and Rockton Hononegah on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class 4A McHenry Sectional at Petersen Park.
Not much separated the teams in what turned out to be a one-run contest, but flawless defense and an opportunistic offense was enough to carry the Storm to a 4-3 victory and its first-ever berth in a sectional title game.
South Elgin (21-12) played error free in the field and took advantage of four Rockton Hononegah errors to score four unearned runs. Three of those runs came home on clutch two-out hits, while on the other side of the ledger the Indians stranded 10 runners on base, including seven in scoring position as Storm pitchers Alex Wolfe and Chris Bingham consistently worked out of jams.
All of that added up to a fourth straight win for South Elgin as its struggles late in the regular season continued to fade into the background. Next up for the Storm is the sectional championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday against the winner of today’s semifinal between Crystal Lake South and Grant.
“We had a little bump at the end of the season but we came together when we needed to,” Bingham said. “This is the farthest our school has ever come and it’s great to be a part of it.”
David Palmer started a two-out rally for South Elgin in the bottom of the first when he legged out an infield single on a ground ball to first. Jake Buhman reached on an error in the next at-bat, setting the stage for Andrew Weedman’s two-run double down the right-field line.
The Storm tacked on another run in the bottom of the third to make it 3-0. David Goins led off the inning and reached on an error on a low throw to first from shortstop Adrian Marquez. Goins then moved up to second on Palmer’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Buhman sliced an RBI double to left with two outs.
“Two-out hits are a killer,” Buhman said. “You can’t leave runners on base in the playoffs. It’s a 4-3 game, and if somebody doesn’t come up with a two-out hit it could be a different outcome.”
Buhman finished 2-for-3 with two RBI after driving home Ryan Ford with a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth. Ford reached when another errant throw from Marquez pulled the first baseman off the bag.
The run proved critical as it made the score 4-2 after the Indians had scored twice off Wolfe in the top of the fourth. Rockton Hononegah (27-10) managed one more run in the seventh off Bingham, but the South Elgin lefty stranded the tying run at second base when he got Nick Naber to fly out to center to end the game on what was the sixth consecutive fly ball out for the Indians.
Wolfe (5-3) was the pitcher of record for the fourth time in South Elgin’s past five games after striking out seven, walking three and scattering seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. Bingham faced seven batters while recording the final four outs to notch the save, and afterward both junior pitchers praised their defense.
“They made every play,” Wolfe said. “We didn’t have that many mental errors in the field and played a good game today.”
Added Bingham: “The defense was the key part today. I’m proud of my team. They played great D, they got hits when they needed to and we got a good win.”
Palmer also went 2-for-3 to help aid the Storm’s six-hit attack. Naber (2-for-4) and Jacob Clouser (2-for-3) had multi-hit games for the Indians while Daytona Bryden and Colin Schreck provided an RBI apiece.
Junior Jack Granath (7-1) struck out three and allowed five hits in five innings in a losing effort for Rockton Hononegah, which for the fifth time in six years reached the sectional round but failed to claim a title.
“That one run killed us,” Granath said. “If we could have cut down on one error or had one more base hit, we would be on the other side of the loss.”