ROCKFORD – DeKalb baseball coach Dedric Wright spent his final moments in a Barbs uniform arguing a call that decided the outcome of a 2-1 loss to Guilford in the championship game of the Class 4A Guilford Regional.
With both teams tied at 1 in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday, the Barbs needed one more out to force extras.
Guilford’s Max Klein came to the plate with two runners on and tapped a grounder toward DeKalb shortstop Trey Roach, who failed to field the ball cleanly. After the high chopper hit him in the chest, Roach grabbed the ball and fired to first base.
Klein was ruled safe on an error by Roach, scoring the game-winning run from third for Guilford (14-11).
Wright and assistant coach Jeremy Morton stormed toward the field umpire to argue the call, but there was no overruling.
“I thought he was out by a step,” Wright said. “We can’t put that loss on Trey. It was a hard hit ball, and he stayed with it. He picked it up clean, threw it over, and their guy was called safe.”
After the game, Wright announced his resignation as head coach of the Barbs (9-25). The Barbs, which played in their second consecutive regional championship, compiled a 19-51 record in two seasons under Wright.
Wright, who decided on resigning before the end of the regular season, was hoping to win back-to-back regional championships. He plans on reviewing film of the final play of Saturday’s game and said he will likely file a complaint to the IHSA.
“I don’t like to blame games on umpires, but when you’re in a championship game, there has to be a better crew than that,” he said. “There were plays earlier in the game when I thought a run was taken away from us on a ball that was called foul but it was clearly fair.
The strike zone was everywhere.
“It’s a tough game when players play that hard and it’s impacted on things that are out of their control.”
Both starting pitchers lasted the entire game. DeKalb’s Eric Nelson surrendered two runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts. Guilford’s Jake Klekamp earned the complete game victory, allowing three hits and one run, while striking out eight.
Wright labeled Nelson’s performance the best he’s seen from him all season.
“As a baseball player, he’s been with me the past four years – that was the best I’ve ever seen him throw,” Wright said of Nelson. “If we had to go seven, eight, nine innings, he would’ve still been out there dealing.”
Matt Searls and Noah Valin were the only Barbs to register a hit. Searls finished 2 for 3 with a double, while Valin knocked in an RBI single to give DeKalb a 1-0 lead in the third frame.
Klekamp tied the game at 1 with his RBI double to right field in the bottom of the fifth.
Andrew Harris led the Vikings at the plate with two hits.
“We were able to walk away with a regional championship last year as a first-year head coach and then making it back [to the regional championship] in my second year, we fell short,” Wright said. “But we were still able to do some good things.”
By the numbers: The Barbs committed two errors in the game.
Beyond the stats: Outgoing DeKalb athletic director Nic Kearfott said incoming DeKalb and current Kaneland athletic director Peter Goff will lead the hiring process of the next DeKalb baseball coach.
They said it: “It’s been interesting,” Wright said. “We didn’t win a lot of games in the regular season, but last year we won a regional, and this year we made it to the regional championship again – I think that says a lot in itself. There are just a lot of challenges I wish we could’ve overcome. I met a lot of good people and made a lot of friends and new relationships. I love the game and I love the kids.”