Pearson’s game-winner in 11th sinks South ElginStreamwood's Nate Pearson fields a ground ball against South Elgin. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 30, 2011 7:21PM
Edgar Saldivar might be the smallest player on Streamwood’s baseball team, but the 5-6 senior pinch-runner looked like a giant as he soared in the air and pumped his fist moments after scoring the biggest run in his school’s history.
Saldivar’s shining moment came in the bottom of the 11th inning in yet another epic battle between the Sabres and rival South Elgin.
With two outs and the score tied, senior shortstop Nate Pearson ripped a grounder down the line and past diving Storm third baseman Nate Garris. As the ball rolled into the outfield, Saldivar sprinted around third before sliding safely across home as Streamwood claimed its first postseason title in the program’s 32-year history with a 5-4 victory in the championship game of the Hoffman Estates Class 4A Regional.
“I’ve never jumped that high in my life,” Saldivar said. “When it passed (Garris), I was going to score no matter what.”
The dramatic finish marked another thrilling chapter in what is quickly becoming a scintillating rivalry. The Sabres edged the Storm 7-6 in nine innings earlier this season, but it was a meeting between the teams in a regional championship game 364 days prior to Saturday’s affair that loomed largest in everyone’s minds coming into the contest.
In that game Streamwood squandered a 10-run lead as South Elgin staged a comeback for the ages, claiming its first regional title with a 13-12 victory. Almost one year to the day later, a similar story played out as the Sabres saw a four-run lead evaporate. But this time the Storm was left to look on in disappointment as Streamwood celebrated following Pearson’s hit.
“When they came back and beat us last year it hurt bad,” Pearson said. “We weren’t going to lose today. We had a mentality that losing is not an option.”
Streamwood (28-6) continues its magical season at the DeKalb Sectional on Wednesday when it takes on Rockford Boylan (26-5). The regional title is the latest accomplishment for the Sabres, who earlier this month set a program record for wins and won their first league championship when they tied for first in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division.
South Elgin finished the year 24-10 and for the second straight season set a program record for victories.
Streamwood ace Josh Harris started on the mound and gave himself the lead when he clubbed a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the second. Brandon Larkin-Guilfoyle’s three-run double in the bottom of the third put the Sabres ahead 4-0, but South Elgin sophomore starter David Palmer and junior reliever Andrew Perry combined to allow no runs on three hits over the next seven innings.
Meanwhile, the Storm clawed back with three runs in the top of the fourth to pull within 4-3. Garris then came through in the clutch in the top of the seventh, looping an RBI single to right to drive home Robbie Green from second to tie the score at 4.
The sequence chased Harris, who gave way to Dalton Lundeen. The junior lefty was two days removed from tossing a complete game in Streamwood’s regional semifinal win, but he calmly retired the next two batters to strand Garris at second before going on to pitch a scoreless eighth.
Lundeen finally ran into trouble in the ninth when Storm senior John Menken drew a walk, stole second and moved up to third on a wild pitch with two outs. That prompted Streamwood coach Steve Diversey to summon junior reliever Dominick Tatone, who promptly struck out Garris to end the threat.
Tatone (3-0) went on to face the minimum number of batters over the next two innings to pick up the win in 2 1/3 scoreless innings as he joined Saldivar as another unlikely hero.