Too cold for the cats

West Chicago’s baseball team could not prevent the St. Francis Spartans from taking the W on a blustery night in mid-March.
Senior Tyler Heath considers his pitch on the Spartans mound. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Zeitler (@r_zphotography))
Senior Tyler Heath considers his pitch on the Spartans’ mound. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Zeitler (@r_zphotography))
Photo by Carlos Allen

On the afternoon of March 18, when the high was only 39 degrees, the West Chicago Wildcats Varsity baseball team took a quick trip down Roosevelt Road to face the St. Francis Spartans.

It was a match-up that would end in defeat for WEGO.

St. Francis came into the game with a hot start to their season: the Spartans have two road wins after beating their rival, Wheaton Academy, on March 12 with a score of 10-7, and blowing out Glenbard West on 3/16 with a score of 25-14. St. Francis was led on Saturday by senior Andrew Mueller. The Loras College commit went 4-5 with 3 doubles, 3 RBIs, and 2 runs, which was a big part of the Spartans’ 24 run and 12 extra-base hit day.

The West Chicago Wildcats started the season “on the right note” last Tuesday with a win against Hoffman Estates (March 12), but lost to Wheaton North the day after to a score of 11-1 (March 13). Zach Williamson (’25) started on the mound for West Chicago last Wednesday against the Falcons; his outing would be cut short, getting pulled after the second inning after letting up 3 runs in the first inning and being already at 47 pitches after the second.

With the previous week’s loss on his mind, senior Tyler Heath toed the rubber for the Wildcats, in what would be his second start of the season. Against St. Francis, Tyler Heath got his day at the plate, starting with a single to left field and getting to second on a wild pitch. Catcher Kyler Campell (’24) would eventually drive Tyler Heath in by pulling a single down the third baseline for the game’s first run, but would get stranded after Tommy Doyle (’25) was struck out by Spartan starter Colt Armburst, a junior.

WCCHS’ Dominic Cicero steps up to bat against St. Francis on March 18. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Zeitler (@r_zphotography))

St. Francis struck back in the bottom of the first after a ground ball through the right side of the infield off the bat of Joe Gainer (’25) to bring home Zack Maduzia (’25), but that would be all in the first for the Spartans.

The Wildcats came back with a run of their own in the top of the second after seniors Rafa Herrera and Dominic Cicero got to first and second after both being walked. Junior Royal Day hit a slow chopper down to the shortstop to advance Herrera and Cicero, and Ryan Zalak (’24) hit a groundball to the second baseman to add another run to the board for the Cats.

The tide turned in favor of the Spartans in the bottom of the second inning, however.

“It was a bit rough in the beginning for our team but no matter what we faced, we still fought hard until the end,” Cicero said.

St. Francis catcher Trey Kiesler, a senior, started the inning off with a walk and got to second after a single into left field by Spartan Logan Swaney, also a senior. Then Ben Conte (’24) flew out to the pitcher for the first out of the inning. Dylan Ston (’24) would get walked to make the bases loaded with one out, and Mueller would have the same outcome to his at-bat as Ston, where he got walked to bring home junior Brady Carroll, who pinch ran for Kiesler to make the game 3-2. Maduzia got walked on five pitches to bring home Swaney to make the lead 4-2. Spartan and senior Nick Sparacio lined a comebacker to Tyler Heath’s glove to make the second out of the inning.

But the damage was not done yet.

Gainer brought Ston home on a slow ground ball to first, where Herrera tossed it to Heath, but not in time. Mueller tested Heath’s arm by booking it for home, which caused a rushed tag by Campbell, leading to the ball popping out of his glove. Armburst would be up next and line a double into the gap to score Maduzia and Gainer for the final runs of the inning. The Spartans would be up by five going into the third.

Williamson and Tyler Heath both grounded out to start the third for West Chicago. Campbell got walked and advanced to second on a single into left field from junior Tommy Doyle. Campbell reached third on a passed ball and scored on a single off the bat of Herrera for the only Wildcat run in the third, but would cut the deficit to four.

The Wildcats’ Tommy Doyle hustles across the field. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Zeitler (@r_zphotography))

Brandon R. Heath (’24) would come into pitch for the Wildcats in the bottom of the third. Swaney belted a double over Cicero’s head in left field to start St. Francis’s half of the inning. Spartan Luc Swiatek, a senior, was walked in the next at-bat. Ston dropped a sacrifice bunt to move Swaney and Swiatek to second and third. Then Brandon Heath got his first out of the day after striking out Mueller, but Maduzia added two more runs to the Spartans’ lead after sending a grounder through the left side and bringing home Swaney and Swiatek to make the lead 9-3.

Tyler Heath made a sliding stop at first to end the inning and limit the damage.

Day started off the top of the fourth inning by getting hit by the pitch. Although Zalak followed it up with a blooper single over Ston’s head at first base, Brandon Heath would get to first on a fielder choice that got Zalak out at second. Day then scored on an error made by Maduzia off a grounder by Williamson. The top of the fourth would end after Tyler Heath and Campbell struck out.

Shortly thereafter, Gainer led off the bottom of the fourth with a fly ball into shallow right field that would get caught by Tyler Heath. Armburst reached first with a single into left field and would get to second after Kiesler drew a walk. Brandon Heath secured the second out of the inning by striking out Swaney on four pitches.

At this point, Armburst and Carroll stole third and second to get both into scoring positions for Swiatek, and their strategy worked perfectly. Swiatek hit a liner to right field that brought home Armburst and Caroll to make the lead 11-4. Brandon Heath came out of the game, and Herrera took his spot. Despite the switch in players, Swiatek then stole second, and Ston continued the trend and lined the ball into right field to bring home Swiatek for the final run of the evening for the Spartans.

Both teams went three up and three down in the fifth to keep the score at 12-4.

Before the end of the game, the Wildcats would add two more runs after a line drive from Zalak in the sixth to score Day and an opposite-field hit by Day to drive home Doyle in the top of the 7th, but those efforts were not enough to come back from the hole that the Spartans put them in.

“We just didn’t play our best ball,” Brandon Heath said.

West Chicago is now looking for a comeback in their next match-up is against Aurora Central Catholic on Tuesday, March 19.

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