A day ‘two’ forget
Ottawa Marquette ends Knights’ postseason
According to a popular song of yesterday, one is the loneliest number.
After last Wednesday’s sectional semifinal game, members of Chicago Christian’s baseball program would probably disagree. For them, the answer is two.
By limiting their run production to that amount against Ottawa Marquette in a Class 2A Herscher Sectional matchup, the Knights separated themselves from further postseason play and were left alone to ponder what could have been.
The Crusaders edged Christian 3-2, which marked the third time in four years the latter exited the state tournament by being on the short end of that exact score. Making the loss sting a little more was that Ottawa Marquette, a 30-game winner entering the contest, didn’t finalize the verdict until its second-to-last at-bat.
That’s when the Crusaders bunched four of their nine hits off Knights ace Christian Bolhuis together to erase a 2-1 deficit.
“We were up 2-1 for about 90 percent of the game,” Chicago Christian coach Eric Brauer said. “When we scored two in the first inning, I thought maybe it was going to be enough.”
With eight-game winner Bolhuis on the hill, that opinion certainly seemed reasonable. The junior gave one of those runs back in the bottom of the first after allowing a triple, but he settled into a groove after that.
Unfortunately for the Knights (25-12-1), so did Ottawa Marquette’s hurler. After throwing 34 pitches in the opening stanza, he retired 14 straight Chicago Christian batters, a streak not broken until Josh Novak singled in the sixth.
“Their pitcher was good, but by no means was he the best we’ve seen,” Brauer said. “We knew they were a good team, but he was pretty erratic in the first inning.”
Trevor Wolterink’s single, which followed a couple of walks, staked the Knights to their early advantage. Bolhuis made sure the slim lead held up for quite a while by stranding two Crusaders runners in scoring position in the third inning, doing so by sandwiching a strikeout between a pair of flyouts.
Christian put two runners aboard in the sixth but had nothing to show for it, and its final plate appearance resulted in more of the same. A game-ending flyout left a couple other Knights on base.
“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t frustrated being done playing,” Brauer said. “We feel good about the whole season, but it’s frustrating losing low-scoring [playoff] games the last four years. If we could score five runs, we’d be in good shape because I don’t think we’re going to give up that many.”
Recent history proves Brauer correct — while Christian has totaled a mere 10 runs in its final games over the past five seasons, it has surrendered only 14. Bolhuis gave up as many as three runs for just the third time this spring.
When asked if the Knights’ 22-0 sprints past two overmatched regional opponents might have left them a bit susceptible, Brauer said no. Besides, he added, there was nothing that could have been done differently regarding the earlier matchups.
“You can’t control who you’re going to play,” Brauer said. “You can only control how you play.”
For the most part, Christian did that very well in 2014, especially given the youthful makeup of its roster. Six newcomers were among the team’s full-time positional starters and three of its top five pitchers had never seen previous varsity action.
“We started the season young and it was definitely a rebuilding year,” Brauer said. “For the 35-game grind, we probably overachieved most of the year, but it doesn’t lower expectations when you’ve got Christian [Bolhuis] going for you [in the playoffs].
“The overall body of work was good and we have 78 percent of our [pitching] innings coming back. The main offseason goal is to find a way to [consistently] score more runs.”
Chicago Christian 200 000 0 — 2
Ottawa Marquette 100 002 x — 3
Chicago Christian RBI: Wolterink 2. LP: Bolhuis (8-3).