Elgin's Dean Anderson is safe at third. | Geoff Scheerer/Sun-Times Media
With the go-ahead run on base during the fourth inning of the first game of two Saturday at Trout Park, Larkin senior John Jowaski had a lot on his mind when he stood in against Elgin pitcher Kiko Mari.
Jowaski’s father, Ken, is in the hospital after heart by-pass surgery.
“I would rather be in the hospital with him today, but he would want me out here,” Jowaski said.
The Royals were glad to have their catcher available, however, as he cracked a two-run double for a 3-1 lead after Jonathan Avila had tied the game with an RBI single, and Larkin went on to win the series opener 6-2.
Then Larkin took advantage of some shaky Elgin fielding late in the second game and produced a 5-3 comeback victory after a go-ahead RBI single by Jack McCracken for a sweep in Upstate Eight River play.
“He’s had a crazy month,” Larkin coach Matt Esterino said of Jowaski. “It was nice for him, not only for the hit in Game 1, but I think just to be out here. I think it’s something that puts it in perspective.”
The Royals (8-12, 4-8) won the first game behind the pitching of McCracken (4-2), who went the distance and allowed only Tom Sobeski’s sacrifice fly in the third and an RBI single by Ryan Sitter in the seventh. He walked three, struck out five and allowed eight hits.
McCracken benefited from a rare Larkin power outburst as Brayden Royse hit a two-run homer over the fence in left one inning after Jowaski’s two-run tiebreaking double. It was the Royals’ first homer of the year.
“I knew as soon as I hit it that it was going to be gone,” Royse said about the towering shot over Trout’s short left-field porch. “I’m pretty sure on any field it would have been gone, too. I was happy about that. We finally got the first one.”
In Game 2, Larkin trailed 3-2 after Jack Koekritz hit a two-run double for Elgin (6-13, 4-11) in the top of the fifth off Royse, who started. But in the bottom of the sixth, the Royals made a winner of reliever Jon Lenz (1-1) by rallying for three runs against Maroons reliever Omar Valdez (0-1).
A two-out throwing error on Cam Powers’ infield grounder let Dan Lenz score from second following a walk, tying it at 3-3. Then McCracken singled up the middle for the eventual game-winning run.
“The first pitch tailed away from me, and I saw that so I was just focusing on hitting it to the right side and ended up hitting it up the middle,” McCracken said. “But I hit it well and got the job done.”
Larkin finished Game 2 with just two hits but Elgin errors proved costly, and supplied an insurance run in the fifth when a throw went into left as McCracken tried to steal third.
Elgin had chances in the sixth and seventh, but Lenz escaped a second-and-third, two-out jam with a fly out to right in the sixth and retired the side in order in the seventh following a leadoff single by Sitter.
“We had the lead, didn’t play with the lead very well, had a few opportunities, like in that seventh,” Elgin coach Dave Foerster said. “Give them credit, McCracken was tough in Game 1. He had a lot to do with our approach at the plate. In Game 2, we gave away far too many at-bats.”
Karinski had three hits on the day for Elgin, while the Maroons’ Mari dropped to 1-3 with the Game 1 loss. For Larkin, McCracken had two RBI in Game 2, including one on a perfect suicide squeeze bunt.
The series resumes Monday with a makeup game at Trout Park that will be at 4:30 p.m. instead of the original time of 6.