ROCKFORD — Geneseo baseball coach Joe Nichols saw Monday’s Class 3A regional title game against Rockford Boylan turn on one play.
And it wasn’t one of the key timely hits his team came up with that helped the fifth-seeded Maple Leafs hand the top-seeded Titans a 5-3 loss in the Class 3A regional title game.
The Leafs had given up two runs in the bottom of the second inning to the hosts, who were looking at blowing open the contest early.
“They had two runners on with two outs and had already scored two and we picked a guy off second base to end the inning,” said Nichols of the play in which starting pitcher Carson Rice teamed with his brother, second-baseman Charlie Rice.
“I think that pretty much was the momentum shifter right there,” said Nichols. “You could see the guys get excited.”
And that carried over into the top of the third inning when the Maple Leafs exploded for all five runs and knocked Boylan starter Alex Eaton out of the game, all but ending the Titan’s 22-5 season.
No. 9 hitter Kyle Traphagen knotted the score with a two-run home run. PJ Moser later delivered a two-run single that scored both Rices and Jaden Weinzierl singled home Moser.
That was enough to send the fifth-seeded Maple Leafs (18-10) to the Sectional semifinals on Wednesday against third-seeded Hampshire, a 1-0 Monday winner over second-seeded Maple Park Kaneland.
As a result of pre-determined hosting duties to the team in the top of the bracket, the Maple Leafs will host Hampshire on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Stone Field.
“I think it’s a fantastic thing,” Nichols said. “More than anything, it’s really cool that our kids will get at least a minimum of one more game on their home field in front of their home fans. It’s a big deal for them, especially having lost last year.”
Geneseo out-hit the top-seeded Titans 11-7 and got production from up and down the order with eight players recording hits. Charlie Rice and Carson Rice each went 2 for 4 with a run scored in the top two spots in the batting order and No. 8 hitter Mitch Wirth added a 2-for-3 effort with a run scored ahead of Traphagen’s two RBIs in the nine hole.
“We didn’t do much in our first seven at-bats of the game and then we had about eight at-bats in a row where we went on fire,” said Nichols. “It was a pretty good deal.”
Winning pitcher Carson Rice allowed six hits over six innings, allowing three earned runs. Moser cleaned up in the seventh, giving up just one hit. Each struck out two with Rice allowing the only walk.