McHENRY – Through two innings, the DeKalb baseball team held a lead against one of the top teams in the state.
Then everything went downhill.
The No. 7-seeded Barbs committed seven errors and their wild postseason run came to an end Wednesday night with a 13-2 loss in six innings to No. 1 seed Crystal Lake South in a semifinal of the Class 4A McHenry Sectional at Petersen Park.
“Our bad habits showed their ugly head this game,” DeKalb coach Dedric Wright said. “You look at the scoreboard and it would say that we weren’t in this game, but (DeKalb starting pitcher) Bryce (Wheeler) pitched well enough for us to be in this game. In this situation, he can’t pitch and field. That was a tough team to pitch against and he made some good pitches, and we just couldn’t catch the baseball.”
The Barbs (10-26) took an early lead over the Gators (32-5) after a solo home run by Eric Nelson tied it at 1 in the bottom of the first, and then they scored after a pair of errors by Crystal Lake South shortstop Kory Olsen made it 2-1 DeKalb in the second.
“We just wanted to come out and attack and show them don’t mess with us and don’t underestimate us,” said Nelson, who hit the first pitch he saw from Crystal Lake South starter Andrew Engelking over the left-field fence.
DeKalb had runners on first and third with no outs after going ahead, 2-1, in the second, but Ryne Kerschke hit into a fielder’s choice with courtesy runner Charles Roberts getting tagged out at home. Engelking struck out Jake Neidel for the second out and then got Matt Searls to ground out to short to end the threat.
The Gators answered with two runs in the top of the third to take the lead on a double by Noah Tyrrell. They were the only two earned runs against Wheeler, who went four innings and allowed nine runs on eight hits.
The Barbs allowed the game to get away in the top of the fourth, committing four errors and allowing the Gators to score six runs – including two-run home runs by Scott Skwarek and Nicholas Wolski.
Wolski finished the day 3 for 3 with four RBIs to lead the Gators, who scored four unearned runs off Nelson in the top of the sixth.
The loss was an up-and-down end to an up-and-down season for the Barbs, who had a 16-game losing streak earlier in the year before rattling off three consecutive victories – including back-to-back one-run wins – to win the regional crown.
“A lot of ups lately, though,” Wright said. “This was a good learning season. I was telling the players, ‘I hope you got that taste in your mouth.’ I know they had the taste in their mouth coming into the day and they’re going to leave with a bad taste in their mouth. I just hope it makes them hungry to get back in this situation next year.”
By the numbers: DeKalb finished with only three hits on the day, with Wheeler hitting two singles to go with Nelson’s solo home run. The Gators finished with 11, with Wolski (three), Olsen (two) and Griffin Bright (two) collecting multiple hits.
Beyond the stats: In the top of the fourth, Skwarek hit a high pop-up in foul territory that DeKalb catcher Tyler Hoffman dropped. A few pitches later, Skwarek hit his two-run homer to left.
They said it: “It stinks that we played clean all of the postseason except for today, which is when it counted the most, but we won regionals and beat those odds so I’m happy with how we performed at the end of the year,” DeKalb senior shortstop Derek Kyler said.
Up next: The Gators will face Huntley in the Class 4A McHenry Sectional final at 11 a.m. Saturday.