DeKALB – Down by a run heading into the seventh inning of Monday’s Class 3A Kaneland Regional opener against IMSA, the DeKalb baseball team’s confidence could have been shaken.
“I never really felt like we were going to lose,” Barbs coach Jake Howells said. “It would have taken until the last guy makes the last out to say, ‘Oh yeah, we lost.’ I always felt like, ‘Hey, somebody’s going to make something happen.’ ”
The Barbs had an IMSA outfielder to thank for their come-from-behind, 5-4, walk-off win. First, a catchable Danny Petras line drive eluded the left fielder, which led to the bases being loaded after Brian Sisler was intentionally walked. Then, Trenton Sopko’s pop-up to left field was dropped, allowing two runners to score to end the 5-4 DeKalb win.
Fourth-seeded DeKalb will play top-seeded Kaneland at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals in Maple Park.
Howells knew the Barbs might have trouble heading into Monday’s game, even though the Barbs were playing against a smaller school.
“It’s not a game I was looking forward to. Everybody’s expecting you to win,” Howells said. “It doesn’t matter how bad one team is or how good you think you are, the game can play tricks on you, and I was scared of that.”
His trepidations were warranted.
After DeKalb (17-15-1) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, fifth-seeded IMSA (10-15) scored three runs in the third inning, with one coming on a DeKalb error.
But starting pitcher Zack Price wasn’t shaken after IMSA’s go-ahead inning.
“I figured the game wasn’t going to end 3-1,” Price said. “Our team is senior dominated, and our team has a lot of experience. We were losing, but I never felt like we were going to lose the game.”
The Barbs rallied, scoring two runs to set up the dramatic final inning.
When Sopko came up with the bases loaded, he said he was sure the Barbs would win. When his one-out fly ball looked like it was going straight into the glove of the IMSA left fielder, he was still confident.
“I figured we would at least get one run out of it,” Sopko said. “[Jeremy Karasewski] was behind me and he would have picked me up and he would’ve won the game. Either way, we would’ve gotten the job done.”
On Wednesday, the Barbs hope they can do what IMSA almost did – win in upset fashion – when they face Kaneland, the defending state champion, in the regional semifinals.
There is one difference between the two games, though. IMSA surprised DeKalb. Sopko knows the Barbs won’t be able to do the same to their conference rivals.
“They know we’re going to be coming for them,” he said.