Easy as can be
Knights steamroll pair of foes to gain title
Anything worth having is worth working for — or so it’s said.
The second part of that old chestnut sure didn’t apply to Chicago Christian last week. While the Knights were glad to win their fourth straight regional championship and fifth in six years, they did so without breaking a sweat.
When Christian crushed CICS/Longwood 22-0 in a Class 2A Chicago Christian Regional semifinal matchup last Wednesday, eyebrows might not have been raised. After all, the Knights entered the contest as a prohibitive favorite and, besides, first-round encounters often feature lopsided outcomes.
But then Christian went out on Saturday and duplicated its previous dominance. Back-to-back 11-run explosions to start the game sent the Knights on their way to a 22-0 rout of ACE Charter Tech and the aforementioned regional crown.
Christian (25-11-1) was to meet Marquette Academy this past Wednesday in a Herscher Sectional semifinal. The winner advanced into Saturday’s title contest versus either the host school or Bishop McNamara.
“We’re real excited to be playing [some more],” Knights coach Eric Brauer said. “We’re 11-1-1 in our last 13 games, [and after] only hitting .260 as a team in our first 24 games, we’re hitting .375 since then. We’ve pitched and played [good] defense most of the year, but we were waiting for the bats to come around.
“I’m pretty optimistic. I think we are legitimately playing our best baseball right now.”
Brauer admitted it was “definitely not a real tough week” for Christian in the regional round. That, of course, leads to some debate as to the Knights’ level of readiness for sectional play.
“I’ve been asked that question a lot over the last 72 hours and, to be honest, I think it’s totally irrelevant,” Brauer said. “I don’t think there’s a cookie-cutter answer to that.”
He pointed out how, in a recent season that included a pair of extra-inning playoff wins, Christian’s tourney stay didn’t last as long as it did in another postseason where one-sided victories were more commonplace. Brauer also pegged the 2014 regular season as good preparation for the state tournament.
“It’s not like we’ve been coasting all year,” he said. “Half our games have been decided by two runs or less. We were playing games that mattered in conference all year, so we’re very battle-tested and confident playing in tight games.”
Wednesday’s contest was tight until the Knights sent 23 batters to the plate in the third stanza and accrued 18 runs. Sean O’Meara’s three-run homer highlighted the massive assault, but Christian Bolhuis (two doubles, three RBI), Pat McCarthy (a pair of two-run singles) and Zach Frieling (two-run double) also made their presences felt.
Between them, the quartet drove in 13 runs on the day. Chicago Christian finished with 14 hits, which were augmented by eight walks, two hit batsmen and a couple of CICS/Longwood errors.
“We don’t leave many guys on base,” Brauer said. “That third inning was the inning that never ended.
“Their starting pitcher wasn’t bad — his velocity wasn’t bad, but he had trouble throwing strikes. He threw 130 pitches in 2 1/3 innings, and when they took him out their other pitchers didn’t have much.”
Lost amid the offensive fireworks was the fact that Knights hurlers Dan Vos, Adam Schoenle and Bolhuis combined on a no-hitter and struck out a total of 13 batters.
Christian’s romp, while not entirely unexpected, showed that it had no intention of overlooking a mismatched opponent. That pleased Brauer greatly.
“There’s a thousand ways to win and probably 10,000 ways to lose,” he said. “Baseball is a crazy game and you’ve got to stay focused and do what you have to do.”
Chicago Christian 22
ACE Charter Tech 0
When Ron Clark slammed a two-run homer in the first inning on Saturday, the blow extended the Knights’ lead to 10-0 at that juncture. Making the rapid getaway all the more impressive is that it occurred before a single out had been recorded.
Clark also doubled during the game and finished with three RBI. Tyler Edgar matched that RBI total and four other players had two. Interestingly, Christian collected only nine hits but benefited from 15 free passes.
Bolhuis worked the first two innings on the hill to bag his eighth win in 10 decisions. Along the way, he raised his strikeout total to 97, which eclipsed the program’s single-season standard set by Joe Williams in the late 1990s. Bolhuis reached that plateau despite throwing only 58 innings this spring.
“He deserves the record,” Brauer said. “He’s pitched very well for us this year.”
ACE Charter Tech managed only one hit against the Knights.
Before beginning the playoffs, Christian concluded its regular campaign by blanking Hammond (Ind.) Academy 10-0 last Monday.
Frieling and Max Kerfin both delivered two hits for the Knights, while McCarthy and Jack De Vries knocked in two runs apiece. Josh Novak logged the pitching victory.
CICS/Longwood 000 00 — 0
Chicago Christian 22(18) 0x — 22
Chicago Christian 2B: Bolhuis 2, Clark, Frieling, Novak. 3B: Novak. HR: O’Meara. RBI: McCarthy 4, Bolhuis 3, Frieling 3, O’Meara 3, De Vries 2, Clark, Edgar, Kerfin, Wolterink. WP: D. Vos (7-3).
ACE Charter Tech 000 00 — 0
Chicago Christian (11)(11)0 0 x — 22
Chicago Christian 2B: Clark, Frieling. HR: Clark. RBI: Clark 3, Edgar 3, Bolhuis 2, Frieling 2, Kerfin 2, McCarthy 2, De Vries, Santarelli, Schoenle, D. Vos, Wolterink. WP: Bolhuis (8-2).
Chicago Christian 10
Hammond Academy 0
Chicago Christian RBI: De Vries 2, McCarthy 2. WP: Novak (4-4).