BATAVIA — Brian Bogda has used this summer to get a feel for where certain players are at in their development in order to have an idea of what his team will look like in the spring.
Several players have made a case for themselves during Crystal Lake South's 13-6 summer season, including outfielder AJ Howaniec. He has had two stellar games in a row during the Phil Lawler Classic summer baseball tournament including a 4-for-4 afternoon on Tuesday, though, despite his efforts, the No. 11 Gators fell to No. 3 Batavia, 13-10.
Gators pitcher Michael Danca took the loss after going 3 1/3 innings while allowing seven runs. He exited in the fourth with one out and the bases loaded in favor of John Constantino. All of the runners came around to score and were charged to Danca.
Batavia will advance face the winner of Geneva and Hampshire in round three at St. Charles East.
"He certainly opened my eyes," Bogda said of the senior. "He will certainly see some chances in the spring and that's what we're talking about here.
"Trying to see where guys fit in and they're showing why they deserve a chance to play and AJ certainly did a lot of positive things for the future."
Howaniec, hitting near the bottom of the order, had 11 total bases including two singles, a double and a three-run home run. He finished the game with seven RBIs.
In the final inning, the Gators trailed 13-7 and Howaniec came to the plate with two outs and two runners on, and smacked an inside fastball over the left-center wall for a three-run home run which made some fans stop packing up their chairs and umbrellas.
"Their lineup is very dangerous," Batavia coach Matt Holm said. "Top to bottom they can swing the bat and that homer at the end of the game came from a kid who was hot all day. That ball just kept on going. It was a shot."
With the oppressive heat that soared into the upper 90s, the pitchers on both sides tired quickly, especially in long innings. Four times, three or more runs were scored in an inning including back-to-back innings where the Bulldogs posted five runs and six runs. Six pitchers in total were used throughout the game and the batters took advantage of the tiring hurlers. The two offenses combined for 27 hits and 23 runs.
"I could tell, especially their first pitcher, was conserving himself so you just had to take advantage," Howaniec said. "Sometimes they would throw it a bit slower, or a pitch wouldn't have as much movement on it, and you just had to jump on it."
Casey Oliver was the Gators' catcher for nearly every game last season, so he knew how to deal with his pitchers who were struggling through long innings while battling the heat.
The senior has a knack for calling a good game and knows how to pace the game which has been useful for defusing tough situations and allowing his pitchers to catch their breath. He would trot out to the mound when he would sense some tiredness or when he, too, was getting hot.
"Especially on a day like today, you have to go out and talk to them and settle them down and keep them under control," Oliver said. "It was a hitters day and it's tough to be a pitcher today. I tried to make it a little easier."