CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Cardinals baseball coach Steve Aragon gathered his players in short right field Sunday and reminded them how far they had come in four days at the McHenry County Youth Sports Association Summer International Championships.
After going 1-2 in pool play, the 15U Cardinals regrouped and became the second team in the program’s long history to advance to the championship game of the tournament by ripping off three straight wins in bracket play.
“For us, it meant a lot to even be in this position,” Aragon said. “It was important. We wanted to play in this game. To compete at this level, it speaks to these boys’ desire to win and compete.”
Elite Baseball Training (Indiana) ended the Cardinals’ hopes of winning their first MCYSA title by scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete a 6-5 come-from-behind win at Lippold Park in the 15U championship game.
The Cardinals scored three runs on four hits in the top of the seventh to chase starting pitcher Jonathan Sabotnik from the game and take a 5-1 lead.
In the bottom half, Elite strung together five hits and benefited from two costly errors – Crystal Lake’s only mistakes of the day – in a wild finish.
All seven of Elite’s batters reached base in the seventh, with the only out coming on a fielder’s choice. David Sharp drove in the first of five runs on a bobbled ball at third, while Tyler Nelson and Tyler Nemtuda each followed with RBI singles to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-4.
A double steal and a throwing error brought in the tying run with one out, and shortstop Noah Burgh muscled a pitch into the outfield for the game-winning run.
Crystal Lake South sophomore Ian Gorken started and pitched all 61/3 innings for the Cardinals, allowing six runs on 10 hits with a strikeout and walk. He also went 2 for 3 with a triple, a run scored and an RBI.
Gorken’s confidence didn’t waver as Elite started making better contact because of the defense behind him. Crystal Lake outfielders got to everything in the gaps, and infielders Justin Rohde, Carter Spoden and Ben Peltz turned a 6-4-3 double play earlier in the game.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and give my team the opportunity to make plays,” said Gorken, one of three football players battling for the starting quarterback position at South this fall. “They got all of the energy back, and we were flat on the field.”
Peltz finished 2 for 3 with a double, RBI and a run scored, Kyle Green had a double, an RBI and run scored, and Matt Porter and Rohde each drove in a run in the loss.
“This is the best tournament of the year by far,” Spoden said. “We always look forward to ending our summer here, playing the best teams around the country.
“We’ve been together for a long time, this same group, and we’ve been battling back our whole lives.”