Baseball: South Elgin ready for sectional challenge
By Erik Jacobsen firstname.lastname@example.org May 28, 2012 8:34PM
South Elgin's David Goins (right) celebrates with Jake Buhman after scoring a run earlier this season. The Storm takes on Rockton Hononegah on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class 4A McHenry Sectional. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:05PM
Given the questions surrounding South Elgin’s baseball team entering the season, it stood to reason there would be some surprises along the way.
The first surprise came when a lineup that included only one returning starter among position players produced 14 victories in the Storm’s first 17 games. Expectations soared in the wake of the blistering start, which led to the next surprise as South Elgin stumbled to seven losses during an eight-game stretch in May.
The Storm managed to snap out of its funk just in time for the playoffs to begin, and there weren’t any surprises last week when it made good on its No. 1 seed at the Class 4A Larkin Regional by claiming the program’s second regional title in three years.
Now South Elgin (20-12) hopes to keep this unpredictable season going at this week’s McHenry Sectional at Petersen Park, starting with Wednesday’s semifinal clash against Rockton Hononegah (27-9).
“Right from the beginning of the season we knew we had the pieces, we just had to put them together,” South Elgin senior Jake Buhman said. “We started out really well, but every team hits a rough spot. We hit our rough spot toward the end of the season, which might have worked out in the end now.”
Buhman is one of a dozen players who have been called upon to make key contributions for a Storm squad built on all-around balance, not individual star power.
Senior Andrew Weedman and junior David Palmer both landed All-Upstate Eight Valley honors after serving as South Elgin’s two most consistent contributors this season, but neither has eye-popping statistics. The duo simply stands out in a group of solid players that includes seniors Buhman, Ryan Ford, Andrew Perry, Michael Murphy and Eric Stazy and juniors David Goins, Chris Bingham, Nevan Jeske, Alex Wolfe and Joe Crivolio.
“Everybody has to contribute in order for us to win,” South Elgin coach Jim Kating said. “Everyone has to play solid defense, because if we didn’t have that and some of the pitching we have, we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now.”
It should be noted the losses during South Elgin’s downturn in May came against conference opponents Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and Bartlett, all three of which also won regional titles last week in what was an impressive showing for the Upstate Eight Valley Division.
The Storm can certainly say it is battle tested going into its clash with Rockton Hononegah, which is fresh off its sixth regional title in seven years. The winner advances to Saturday’s championship to play the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Grant (22-11) and Crystal Lake South (28-9), the latter of which was co-champion in the Fox Valley Valley Division.
Palmer, Stazy, Bingham and Wolfe all saw action on the mound during last week’s regional for South Elgin, and the wealth of capable arms bodes well for the Storm’s prospects of claiming its first sectional title this week.
“Anything goes in the playoffs since it’s one and done,” Kating said. “If I have to pitch six guys, I’ll pitch six guys.”