Baseball: Jake Buhman’s game-winning hit lifts South Elgin
By Erik Jacobsen firstname.lastname@example.org May 26, 2012 4:46PM
South Elgin's Jake Buhman holds up his team's regional championship plaque after driving in the winning run as the Storm edged Elgin in extra innings Saturday for the Class 4A Larkin Regional title. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:26AM
Extra-inning playoff baseball lends itself to high drama, and South Elgin’s Jake Buhman had no trouble handling the pressure Saturday.
The senior designated hitter stepped to the plate against Elgin ace Alex Doty with one out and runners at first and second in the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game. Buhman fell behind in the count before lining a two-strike curve ball down the left-field line to drive in Ryan Ford from second base and lift the Storm to a thrilling 4-3 victory against the Maroons in the championship game of the Class 4A Larkin Regional.
Buhman was mobbed by his teammates after Ford crossed the plate as the Storm celebrated its second regional title in three years. South Elgin (20-12) moves on to play Rockton Hononegah on Wednesday in the semifinals of the McHenry Sectional.
“(Doty) kept pumping fastballs in, so I was looking for the fastball but ready to adjust to the offspeed,” Buhman said. “I just flicked the wrists out there. This is the best feeling of my life.”
There was no shortage of suspense after Elgin (13-24) rallied from a three-run deficit with to two runs in the top of the fifth and one more run in the top of the sixth to forge a 3-3 tie.
The score was still knotted when Ford led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and moved up to second on David Palmer’s sacrifice bunt. Andrew Weedman then drew an intentional walk, setting the stage for Buhman’s game-winning hit.
“I’m very proud of my kids for battling,” South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. “They played with some emotion today and kept it up for eight innings.”
The Storm pulled ahead 1-0 in the first inning when David Goins led off with a single and came around to score following a sacrifice bunt and a pair of Elgin errors. South Elgin tacked on two more runs in the fourth thanks to an RBI single from Chris Bingham and another Maroons error as left fielder Kiko Mari and center fielder Derek Strohmaier collided on a pop up to shallow left-center with two outs, allowing Tyler Christensen to come home and make it 3-0.
Bingham started for the Storm and didn’t allow a baserunner through the first four innings, but the Maroons finally got something going in the fifth.
Ryan Sitter scored Elgin’s first run on Nick Turner’s RBI grounder to second that resulted in an error and left the bases loaded for No. 9 hitter Andrew Higdon, who singled to drive in Alex Buttell. Mari also tried to score from second on the play but was tagged out at the plate following a nice throw from Weedman in shallow right.
The Maroons eventually tied it in the sixth when Derek Strohmaier led off with a single, went to second on Gage Teschner’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Jake Bartelt’s RBI double to left. Bartelt finished 2-for-3 and was robbed of another extra-base hit in the second when Ford made a diving catch in center.
“This is pretty upsetting,” Bartelt said. “We thought we had this the whole time and came up just short. It’s just tough.”
Bingham went 2-for-3 to lead the Storm’s seven-hit attack. He was relieved on the mound by fellow junior Alex Wolfe (4-3), who retired all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings to notch the win.
Doty (4-4) took the loss for the Maroons after tossing three innings in relief of starter Eric Daly, who allowed one earned run in five innings.
The defeat marked the 10th one-run loss of the season for Elgin, which nonetheless finished with the program’s highest win total since 2006.
“There was no quit in these guys and I’m proud of the group,” Elgin coach Dave Foerster said. “We did play better and we raised expectations a little bit. Hopefully we carry that over to next year.”