Elgin Post 57’s Joey Lange rounds third to score a run against Wheaton Saturday in Plainfield. | Terence Guider-Shaw For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 29, 2011 12:44AM
PLAINFIELD — In the District 11 American Legion baseball tournament, Elgin Post 57 achieved the kind of roll every team dreams of when it comes to postseason play.
Third-seeded Post 57 not only dominated second-seeded Wheaton Saturday 10-5 for the District 11 championship, but manhandled top-seeded St. Charles in Friday’s semifinal 16-6, outscored four tourney opponents 42-15 and breezed through the double elimination format without a loss despite the absence of its general manager or the head coach who started the season.
“It was just a great tournament for us,” said outfielder-pitcher Joey Lange.
With general manager Bob Todd away for the wedding of his daughter, Post 57 merely picked up the bats and started against Wheaton Saturday where it had left off with St. Charles. Lange lined a three-run second-inning home run to left field and left-hander Tyler Rydin continued to shine after two missed high school seasons due to elbow and biceps problems in a title game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
The only uncertainty on the day was how many times Todd would call or text message from the wedding to acting coach Jeff Kinyon. Kinyon estimated 55 times.
“Bob is real tickled right now,” said Kinyon after Post 57 won a district for the first time in Todd’s 13 years and achieved their highest win total (23-9-1) under Todd, as well.
The victory puts Post 57 in the Lena Division tournament which begins Tuesday. The winner of that game qualifies for state at Galesburg.
Rydin, who would have played for South Elgin the last two seasons if not for his arm problems, suffered no pain at all in working 7⅓ innings for the victory. He came out after Dave Wolak’s RBI double and Chris Caliva’s RBI single cut the Elgin lead to 8-3 with one out in the eighth. Lange moved from left field to the mound and finished the game.
“It seems like Tyler seems to save his best games for the best teams,” said Kinyon, noting that Rydin also beat defending state champion Moline earlier. “He came to play today, but when he got here he was running late. I was going to use my reserve (Luke) Duffy. Luke was kind of our ace in the hole and I was going to throw him if we lost the first game and had to come back for a second game.
“But Tyler seemed to be focused even though I almost had to scratch his name from the lineup and when he got here it was enough time for him to get loose.”
Rydin used a snapping curve to keep Wheaton off balance. Most batters popped up harmlessly or hit deeper fly balls to the oufield, where center fielder Sam Klein and right fielder Reid Ellis got good workouts combining for 15 of the batters Rydin retired. Klein had nine of those. Until he left in the eighth Rydin had allowed only a leadoff fourth-inning home run to Wheaton Academy’s Tate Fritz.
“I wanted to finish the whole game,” Rydin said. “They were starting to sit back on the curve ball, and really that’s what I was going to a lot of the time because it was working so good for me. I found the break on it and it was breaking a lot.
“I was just getting the ball low, throwing a lot of curves. I guess their eyes lit up, but they just popped up, dipping their back shoulders. It was a lot of curve balls.”
Rydin struck out two and gave up seven hits, but four of those hits came in his final inning. He walked only one.
“My arm has been feeling better and better throughout the season,” Rydin said. “Every time I’ve pitched it feels a little better.”
Rydin could relax and go after Wheaton because Post 57 struck for 15 hits, including Lange’s homer. He came into the District 11 tourney without a homer, but batting ninth and then eighth on Saturday, he hit two in the tourney. Saturday’s came off a curve ball from starter and loser Jordan Hanlon after Dan Grzywa and Jordan Torres had swatted two-out singles.
“I heard from my teammates that his curve ball wasn’t that great,” Lange said. “So I saw one and agreed. Next one he threw, it was the same thing so I turned and ripped it.”
Kyle Kinyon went 2-for-4 with four RBI and Lange (2-for-3) had another RBI when he doubled in the fifth. Drew Stover went 3-for-5, including two bunt singles, and drove in a run, and Klein went 4-for-5 in the leadoff spot with three runs scored.
Elgin tacked a run up in the third, two more in the fourth and a run each in the fifth and sixth after Fritz’s home run. When Wheaton scored two off Rydin in the eighth, Elgin came right back with Kinyon’s single, driving in Klein and Ellis for a 10-3 lead.
Lange gave up a two-run Kevin Fahy homer in the ninth, but closed out the win.
When the season started Joe Morel was coaching the team that Todd manages. Morel had to step down for personal reasons, but nothing has stopped Post 57 on or off the diamond.
“We’re playing really good ball right now,” Lange said. “We’ll see where it takes us.”
For now, it will take them west to Lena.