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Players test their mettle at Wood Bat tourney at St. Charles East

07/09/2014, 10:00am CDT
By Gene Chamberlain |

The “whap” of the BBcore bat is being replaced at least for the next few days by the traditional crack of the wood bat in St. Charles.

Batavia pitcher Glen Albanese delivers to a Larkin hitter on Monday, July 7, 2014. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

The “whap” of the BBcore bat is being replaced at least for the next few days by the traditional crack of the wood bat in St. Charles.

It’s requiring an adjustment from everyone involved in the second Wood Bat Tournament at St. Charles Eastside Sportsplex.

“I think it’s a fun change of pace hitting with wood bats,” Batavia’s Willy Firth said Monday. “I play on a travel team, also, and we haven’t used wood bats at all. This is the first time this summer.

“If you don’t hit it on the sweet spot it’s not going to go far at all. Obviously, harder to get hold of one and hit it farther, but with 300-foot fences here it makes it a little more fair.”

Reloading after a run to the sectional finals, Batavia came away with a 10-0 victory over Larkin, then suffered a 5-3 loss at the hands of West Chicago in first-round play. Geneva, meanwhile, opened the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Larkin.

Tourney play continues Tuesday, with the championship game set for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Firth had a double and a two-run single in the rout of Larkin, as the Bulldogs (14-3) took advantage of fielding mistakes by the Royals to turn the game into a rout. Matt Musielak had a two-run single and two hits total. The Bulldogs got the one-hit shutout from impressive sophomore pitcher Glen Albanese.

“Most of our players last year were seniors, and we’ve got about nine seniors coming back but a lot of juniors and they’re all capable — a lot of young guys who want to get the chance to prove themselves,” Firth said.

Geneva has had strong pitching most of the summer in compiling a 12-10 record, and has been peaking as teams count down the days until next week’s Lawler State Summer Tournament.

The Vikings got a combined two-hitter from starting pitcher Mitch Merges, a left-hander, and flame-throwing reliever Jack McCloughan, in defeating Larkin.

“I can’t say a lot for our offense because we didn’t have a threat until the sixth inning, other than the second,” Geneva coach Matt Hahn said. “We’ve been getting the pitching — new pitching —and defense, like (Monday).”

Catcher Nathan Montgomery emerged the hero both on the offensive and defensive sides. While Merges pitched well enough, he had control problems and walked six. But Montgomery three times picked Royals off first.

“(Assistant) coach (Fred) Fortman and coach Hahn after the spring season wanted me to be a little more aggressive,” Montgomery said. “I was trying to back-pick guys. That’s something they want to put into our defense is me going around back-basing guys. If a guy misses a bunt, to shoot it and catch them off guard.”

The Royals’ Jon Lenz matched Vikings pitchers until the sixth, when Jack Wassel got on with an infield single and moved up on a wild pitch. Wassel advanced to third on a groundout before Montgomery hit a one-hopper that got into right for an error that produced the game’s only run.

Not every player in the tournament had to make an adjustment to using wood bats. St. Charles North, which has lost in the summer season only to Batavia, got two home runs from Tyler Mettetal to ignite a 13-1 rout of St. Francis. The Stars handed Kaneland its second loss of the day in two games, 5-1, to reach a game against rival St. Charles East at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at 2-0 in the tourney.

“With travel ball we’ve been using wood bats, so I’ve gotten the feel for using wood bats all summer,” Mettetal said.

The idea for the wood bats was no nostalgia kick, according to St. Charles North coach Todd Genke.

“I wish that’s what it was,” he said. “It’s just the small yard — 300 feet in all fields — and it offsets the distance using wooden bats.

“We liked the idea of playing a tournament at this facility with so many fields close together and all of the games being played right next to each other, and that had more to do with it than wanting to use the wooden bats.”

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