On eve of playoffs, Knights bag three more wins
With a second straight Suburban Christian Conference Gold title already in hand, Chicago Christian had nothing to prove against three nonleague foes last week.
And on Monday, that’s exactly the way it appeared.
Knights coach Eric Brauer liked that his club managed to knock off Christian Liberty Academy 5-0, but that’s as far as the positive vibes went. While Chicago Christian was never in danger of suffering a defeat, it also lacked the game-day energy Brauer has come to expect.
“Our intensity and focus was nowhere near what it needed to be,” he said. “I think our kids weren’t looking at it as very important. It was not the level of competition we’d been playing the previous four weeks in conference, and we played down to our competition.”
Sensing that perhaps his guys were in need of a break near the end of a long regular season, Brauer gave it to them on Wednesday. Only two other times during his nine-year coaching career had Brauer called for a complete day off, but it worked wonders here as the Knights returned to action refreshed on Thursday.
And after crushing University High 13-2 in five innings at the Ray Kroc Center, Christian completed a spotless week by slipping past neighboring Shepard 5-4 on Saturday.
“We probably had a mental hangover from the Saturday before,” Brauer said, referring to the Knights’ championship-clinching triumph over Marmion Academy. “It took us a few days to get back [on course], but we’re definitely happy with how we’re doing [now].”
The good times started rolling against U-High, which had beaten Christian in 2013 and also been competitive with it in the previous year’s matchup. Because of that, Brauer wasn’t shocked to see the Knights clinging to a 3-2 edge through 3 ½ innings.
Far more stunning was Christian’s reaction in both the fourth and fifth frames. Five-run eruptions in each turned the contest into a laugher as the Knights (22-11-1) made full use of their 13 hits, which were spread among 10 different players.
“We did not miss many opportunities to score runs,” Brauer said. “But it’s easy to score runs when you’re getting contributions up and down the lineup. To be honest, I’m surprised it ended up the way it did, but we really played a nice ballgame.”
Junior ace Christian Bolhuis stopped the Maroons on three hits and struck out six while throwing his fifth complete game and raising his ledger to 7-2. He now has 22 career victories, just seven fewer than the school’s all-time leader Trent Overzet.
Bolhuis also chipped in a pair of hits, including a double. Ron Clark (double, RBI) and Jack De Vries (double, sacrifice fly, two RBI) were other offensive ringleaders. Driving in runs as well were Pat McCarthy (two-RBI single, suicide squeeze), Josh Novak (single, bases-loaded walk, two RBI), Zach Frieling (two sacrifice flies) and Mike Santarelli (RBI single).
Chicago Christian 5
Doubles by Sean O’Meara and Novak (RBI) in the bottom of the fifth broke a 3-all tie and lifted the Knights to a victory over the Astros on Saturday. Frieling also doubled in a run in the sixth, which became vital when Shepard picked up a marker in its half of the seventh.
The Astros stranded the tying run at third base after placing it there with just one out.
Christian’s first batch of scoring came in the bottom of the third, when O’Meara (double), De Vries (bases-filled walk) and Trevor Wolterink (groundout) each registered an RBI. Dan Vos logged the pitching win.
Chicago Christian 5
Christian Liberty 0
While Brauer didn’t find Monday’s performance particularly notable, the Knights did pick up their 20th victory, making it six seasons in a row that has been accomplished. Christian has a total of 10 20-win campaigns in its history.
Novak and Jim Vos combined on the hill to hold Christian Liberty to two hits. The Knights plated the only run they really needed in the top of the first on Bolhuis’ double, but they struck for four more tallies in their final at-bat, which featured Wolterink’s two-run double, Bolhuis’ RBI single and Novak’s sacrifice fly.
After concluding its regular slate this past Monday against Hammond (Ind.) Academy, Christian hosts its own Class 2A regional. It was to meet its first playoff opponent on Wednesday.
“We try to approach it from Day 1 that we’re going to have 35 games and about 30 practices to get ourselves as good as we can be,” Brauer said. “We finally settled on our lineup, which took us about 28 games, so we’re still trying to push to get better and peak at the right time of year.”
Chicago Christian 100 000 4 — 5
Christian Liberty 000 000 0 — 0
Chicago Christian 2B: Bolhuis, Wolterink. RBI: Bolhuis 2, Wolterink 2, Novak. WP: Novak (3-4).
University High 100 10 — 2
Chicago Christian 021 55 — 13
Chicago Christian 2B: Bolhuis, De Vries. RBI: McCarthy 3, De Vries 2, Frieling 2, Novak 2, Clark, Santarelli. WP: Bolhuis (7-2).
Shepard 300 000 1 — 4
Chicago Christian 003 011 x — 5
Chicago Christian 2B: O’Meara 2, Frieling, Novak. RBI: De Vries, Frieling, Novak, O’Meara, Wolterink. WP: D. Vos (6-3).