BRADLEY — It happened in a different format than the last time they did it two years ago, hosting both rivals on the same day this season, but the Bradley-Bourbonnais baseball team reclaimed its All-City crown after opening the morning Saturday with a 7-2 win against Bishop McNamara and closing the day out with a 4-3, eight-inning victory against Kankakee.
The Boilers originally were slated to just host the Irish on Saturday before a last-minute schedule adjustment pushed their tilt with the Kays up from Tuesday to give the team something coach Brad Schweigert said they needed ahead of the gauntlet of SouthWest Suburban Conference play that begins this week.
“It was a lot of fun,” Schweigert said. “I wanted to give our guys a challenge with conference coming up. ... Mac is always a good game with a great rivalry; Kankakee has some good arms and nice bats, so we were just like, ‘OK, let’s do this.’”
One of those Kays arms, Camden Kearney, made life difficult for Boilermakers batters during the first seven frames, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks to go along with 10 strikeouts.
“I think Camden shows where he stands with everybody,” Kays coach Tony Sykes said. “He’s only a junior and will be back next year, and I can’t wait to play B-B again next year.”
Despite Kearney’s effectiveness, the Kays found themselves in a low-scoring affair with Boilers righty Kevin Schroer equally locked in, allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits, five strikeouts and two walks during six innings.
That pitcher’s dual set the stage for extra innings, when the Kays got a leadoff walk from Jairus Harris but couldn’t push him across to open the eighth. Harris headed to the mound in relief in the bottom of the frame, which opened on a booming two-bagger from Michael Freitas.
Jack Spittal came in to run for Freitas and quickly advanced to third on a wild pitch. After a walk to Zach Starr, Chase Longtin stepped to the plate but didn’t even need to bring a bat. On the first pitch, a wild pitch, Spittal got a late jump and dashed home, barely beating Harris, and a throw from catcher Jason Moore, who niftily got to the ball to allow for a close play, sliding under a high tag for the walk-off run.
“I just hoped I made it there in time ...” Spittal said. “I was just nervous. I looked up and saw [the umpire] start to raise his hands, and I couldn’t help but yell out.”
As if the dramatic finish wasn’t enough, Saturday afternoon’s game was also an in-house battle for Sykes, whose son T, is a senior centerfielder for Bradley-Bourbonnais.
“It’s not something a lot of people get to experience,” T said. “My friends were asking me how their team was, what kind of stuff they were gonna do, but it’s just special.”
T singled in the fifth before stealing second and third and scoring a run in a game Tony said was the rare time he didn’t want to see his son have too much success.
“There’s a first time for everything, and I’ve coached and coached some of [Bradley-Bourbonnais’] kids for a long time, but I wanted T to get out,” Tony said. “I saw him get that hit, then steal second and third, so I’m glad he had a bit to do, but it was fun.”
The Boilers’ first contest of the day wasn’t quite as tight with their 7-2 victory against Bishop McNamara, but one common theme for the home team between the two games was pitching. Blake Long mixed his pitches and locations well to confuse the Irish bats all game, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, five walks and seven strikeouts.
“We’re attacking the zone with competitive pitching,” Schweigert said. “We pitch to contact and know that we have a solid defense most days, so we just have that 9-on-1 mentality.”
Even with Long strutting his stuff on the mound, the Irish were still able to keep it close. They even sent the go-ahead run to the plate with one out in the fifth inning, when Nolan Czako came to the plate with the bases loaded in a 5-2 game. Czako ripped one up the middle, where shortstop Ian Andrews fielded the sharply hit ball swiftly, tagged second and fired to first for an inning-ending double play.
“That kid made a great play, and kudos to him,” Irish coach Kurt Quick said. “I thought we moved the ball well, and we need to see pitching like that for our confidence, and I was extremely happy with how we hit today; we just couldn’t come up with a big hit.”
Several members of a young Irish team had both their first All-City game and prom Saturday. Quick said some natural distractions came along with such an event but not enough to deter from the challenge they faced Saturday morning.
“All week, with things like getting fitted for tuxedos and things like that, we had to just keep their attention focused on what they needed to do. But playing Bradley[-Bourbonnais] makes it a little easier to get their attention and how much it means to play those guys.”