Byline: Travis Miller Daily Herald Sports Writer
Throughout Elgin's recent string of seven wins in its last nine games, the Maroons have found ways to win with pitching, defense or hitting.
So when the pitching and defense were not going to be enough to win Wednesday's game against Upstate Eight Conference leader Waubonsie Valley (11-5, 11-3), the Maroons came through with their bats - and just at the right time.
Matt Petersen beat out an infield single by diving head-first into first base, allowing Alec Strohmaier to come home from third with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a 9-8 win.
Elgin (7-6, 6-5) had fallen behind 8-7 in the top of the ninth but rallied for the win with 2 runs in the bottom half.
"It wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, but we played hard and hung in there through quite a bit," Elgin coach Dave Cooklin said. "It's ironic that a couple of players who had tough moments during the game later came through in big moments. They didn't hang their heads."
Elgin's ninth-inning rally started with a sharp ground ball by Phil Nichols that was mishandled by the Waubonsie Valley first baseman. After a fly out, Nichols moved to third on a bloop single into left field by Strohmaier. Nichols scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Andy Freeman.
With the score tied again 8-8 and two outs, Mike Springer beat out an infield single and Strohmaier advanced to third. The next batter, Petersen, hit a nearly identical ground ball to the shortstop. But this time the shortstop's throw pulled Waubonsie Valley first baseman Erik Horton off the base and Horton's sweep tag missed the sliding Petersen.
The field umpire's safe call allowed Strohmaier's run from third to count and capped Elgin's comeback.
"I asked (first base coach Dave) Foerster and he said (Horton) definitely did not tag him," Cooklin said. "And Petersen said the same thing. The throw beat him, but (Horton) wasn't on the base."
The ninth-inning comeback made a winner out of Marcus Torres, who relieved starter Randy Hammer in the fifth inning with Elgin leading 7-4. The lefty Torres went the rest of the way, allowing no earned runs and just 3 hits with a strikeout in the 5 innings of work.
Torres worked out of the fifth after Waubonsie tied the game 7-7 then got out of another jam in the sixth without a run scoring. He faced trouble again in the ninth when leadoff hitter Mike Christl reached second on an infield hit and error.
With runners on first and third and one out, Torres got Eric Wickey to ground into a fielder's choice, but the go-ahead run scored on the play. The next batter grounded out to first, ending the inning with Waubonsie Valley leading 8-7. But the Warriors could not hold that lead.
"I am not happy obviously," Waubonsie Valley coach Dan Fezzuoglio said. "Our approach was not good and Elgin battled. Hats off to Elgin. They came out and battled and their pitcher threw strikes. Mentally we made mistakes and we weren't here."
The Warriors uncharacteristically stranded at least one runner in all but one inning and left runners in scoring position in three consecutive innings early on. That combined with some good defensive play by Elgin kept the Maroons close early.
Waubonsie Valley led 4-2 until the fourth inning when Elgin scored 5 runs on 5 …