If Sandburg had any intentions of winning the SouthWest Suburban Blue outright, it needed a rally in the seventh inning of Wednesday's game against Stagg.
Senior Peter Paxinos ignited a two-run outburst with a lead-off double and Chris Stearns came through with the two-strike, two-out RBI single as the Eagles rallied for a 4-3 win over the host Chargers.
Sandburg (21-7, 11-2) and Lockport are tied atop the SSC Blue with one game to play. The Eagles play Stagg on Friday, while the Porters have to play Lincoln-Way East.
"It was a must-win for us," Paxinos said. "We had to win this game for
Stagg pitcher Max Strus pretty much baffled the Eagles for six innings. Other than a solo homer to Alec Martinez (2-for-4) in the fourth and a sacrifice fly that plated an unearned run in the sixth, Strus was on cruise control.
It looked like de ja vu all over again for the Eagles, who were stunned by Strus and Stagg (12-17, 6-7) by a 4-2 count in last year's Class 4A regional.
Paxinos was 0-for-2 against Strus in that game. He was 2-for-2 this time around, including that big double.
"I had a rough game," Paxinos said. "You can't forget the past. I knew he had a really good changeup. The ball was low and away and I went with it."
Paxinos's double landed just inside the right field line. Andy Gayton came on to pinch run and eventually scored on a single to right field by Jim Landgraf that tied the game 3-3.
"I was looking for something outer half and kept my hands back," Landgraf said. "I had to come through."
The Eagles weren't finished. With two outs and the tying run at third base, Stearns fell behind 1-and-2 before slapping a single to right to give Sandburg a 4-3 lead.
"He (Strus) was pitching well all day," Stearns said. "I was hoping for a strike and to put something in play."
Sean Leland picked up the win for Sandburg, going six strong innings.
The right-hander allowed three runs, five hits, one walk and struck out five. He surrendered a two-run double to Brett Stratinsky (2-for-3) in the first inning and an unearned run in the fifth.
Bryan Pall came on in the seventh to nail down the win, but not without some drama. C.J. Casey led off the inning with a single. After a sac bunt, Pall retired the final two hitters to end the game.
Strus allowed seven hits, two walks and struck out two. Jake Wimmer had two hits for Stagg.