Baseball: Bartlett, St. Charles East surging into sectional
By Erik Jacobsen email@example.com May 29, 2012 9:24PM
Bartlett's Colin Nowak hopes to help the Hawks continue their surprising playoff run at this week's Class 4A Schaumburg Sectional. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 30, 2012 12:12AM
Bartlett and St. Charles East entered the postseason with vastly different expectations, but now that they’ve reached the Class 4A Schaumburg Sectional, the goal is the same for both teams.
The action begins when the 16th-seeded Hawks take on No. 13 Willowbrook at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the first of two semifinals at Schaumburg Boomers Stadium. The third-seeded Saints and No. 10 Schaumburg will square off following the conclusion of the first contest.
Bartlett will be trying to extend its surprising postseason run after winning three games last week to claim the Lake Park Regional. Included in the three wins was an upset of Geneva, which owned the top seed in the 18-team sectional.
“When you’re playing in a sectional you plan to do your stuff and play your game,” Bartlett coach Chris Pemberton said. “If the guys continue to play the kind of baseball they’ve been playing the last couple weeks, hopefully they’ll have a little success.”
While the Hawks have a nothing-to-lose attitude, St. Charles East faces the pressure of being the sectional favorite after the other eight single-digit seeds bowed out in regional play.
The lofty expectations are nothing new for the Saints, who see the sectional as another accomplishment to cross off the list after winning their second straight Upstate Eight River title and third straight regional crown in recent weeks.
“One of our goals is to make a deep playoff run, and we’ve got a couple more games to go before we reach what we define as a deep playoff run,” said St. Charles East coach Len Asquini.
The pedigrees of the two teams in the first semifinal aren’t quite up to the level of those boasted by the teams in the second semifinal.
Bartlett (19-19) is fresh off its second regional title in program history and first since 2002, and the Hawks will be chasing their first sectional crown. Willowbrook (22-14) is coming off its first regional title since the 1973 season when it made its school’s only appearance at the state finals.
Contrast that with St. Charles East (25-10), which has 12 regional titles, three sectional crowns and one state championship in the past 20 years. Schaumburg (23-13) owns 13 regional titles, four sectional titles and one state championship under coach Paul Groot, who is retiring after the season following 28 years at the helm.
“It’s not going to be an easy task playing in front of a home-cooking crowd tilted toward the Schaumburg Saxons,” Asquini said. “It’s right in their back yard, and also with this being coach Groot’s last year, their kids are wanting a magical run for him.”
The Saints are on a six-game winning streak as they look to break through after losing in the sectional semifinals last year and the sectional finals in 2010.
St. Charles East boasts a potent batting order from top to bottom, led by junior Joe Hoscheit. The talented outfielder leads the team with a .424 batting average, two home runs and 28 RBI to go along with 25 runs scored and 14 doubles.
Senior ace Kyle Manske headlines a solid pitching rotation with his 8-1 record and 1.23 ERA in 62 2/3 innings.
“We haven’t had to rely on one or two individuals to get it done,” Asquini said. “There have been a plethora of guys who have gotten it done at different times and different stages for us.”
A few solid pitching arms and a team playing its best baseball of the season is sometimes enough to spark a long playoff run, and Bartlett certainly fits that profile as it looks to push its record above the .500 mark for the first time since early April.
Junior Colin Nowak and senior Robert Sadowski have been lights out on the mound lately for the Hawks. Sadowski has tossed a complete-game shutout in his last two starts and owns a 6-3 record, a 3.00 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings.
Nowak won twice during last week’s regional and is 7-2 with a 2.26 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings. The standout also ranks among Bartlett’s top offensive contributors with five home runs, 24 RBI and a .312 batting average.
“It’s nice to know you have two guys who are going to throw strikes and give you an advantage when they’re out there on the mound,” Pemberton said. “It gives our kids a lift, and they want to help (Nowak and Sadowski) any way they can, whether it be at the plate or in the field.”