Score a few runs, throw strikes and play good defense. That is the blueprint for success according to Larkin coach Matt Esterino.
Esterino enjoyed seeing that script come to life Monday morning as the fourth-seeded Royals eliminated fifth-seeded Rockford Jefferson for the second straight year with a 4-0 victory in the Class 3A DeKalb Regional quarterfinals.
Still, Esterino wants a different storyline when the Royals (15-19) play top-seeded Huntley (24-7-1) at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the regional semifinals. Last year, No. 4 Larkin beat No. 5 Rockford Jefferson 7-0, before losing 10-2 to Huntley.
The Jayhawks (3-23) could not capitalize on a bases-loaded situation in the second inning and Larkin took control from there.
“Their pitching staff really locked us down,” Jefferson coach Jordan Shaver said. “Their starter threw an excellent game and was getting ahead of us on the count all day. Unfortunately, it’s been that way all year for us, just not getting that timely hit that could change the game.”
After yielding three singles in the second inning, Larkin starter Will King induced a grounder that third baseman Dan Lenz was able to throw home for the forceout. The junior right-hander then notched the third of four strikeouts to get out of the inning.
“I was just trying to throw fastballs for strikes or to get them to put it in play knowing I had a great defense behind me,” said King, who improved to 4-4. “I didn’t really change anything. I simply trusted in my catcher.”
John “JJ” Jowaski, the catcher, also came through with a home run over the left-field fence to lead off the bottom of the third.
“I went up with the mind-set of getting on base, but when he went inside I was able to really turn on it,” Jowaski said. “A playoff game is a nice spot for my first homer.”
In the fifth, Larkin got a two-out single from Rob Bond before Tyler Kalusa followed with a deep RBI double off the left-field fence. Kalusa scored on a Jayhawks error on Brayden Royse’s fly ball to center.
“Basically, I listened to my coach who told me to scoot up in the box and look for the next fastball,” Kalusa said. “I drove it further than I expected. At first we were all a little jittery, but after JJ’s hit broke things loose for us, all the pieces came together.”
King started the sixth with an out but exited after Jefferson got two runners on base after an error and a single. Royse came on in relief and got a popout and one of his two strikeouts.
Joe Lenz led off the sixth with a double and moved to second on Jack McCracken’s sacrifice bunt. Lenz scored the last run when Andrew Chmiola danced around long enough in a rundown.
Jefferson’s Andrew Wimberly (1-7) went the distance in the loss.