MORRIS — Early in the Saratoga baseball team's 4-1 loss to Beecher in the IESA Class 2A Saratoga Sectional championship game, things seemed to be going the Hawks' way.
Even though Saratoga was hosting the sectional, the teams flipped a coin to decide the home team and Beecher won, meaning that Saratoga would bat first.
The Hawks wasted very little time getting on the board. Leadoff hitter Blake Barth walked and stole second, then Nick Macchietto doubles to left to bring Barth home for a 1-0 lead after only two hitters.
Unfortunately for Saratoga, that was its the only run of the game as Beecher pitcher Blake Stout pitched a complete game and allowed just four more hits while striking out six and walking only one.
"We just didn't hit today," Saratoga coach Matt Blaine said. "Give a lot of credit to their pitcher. He threw strikes, changed speeds and kept our kids off balance.
"Our offense has pretty much carried us all year, but when you get this deep in the post season, you are going to see better pitching and the eight or nine runs a game we were getting aren't going to come."
Saratoga starting pitcher Ryan Fischer was equally as good as Stout in the early going, striking out five through the first three innings. He ran into a little trouble in the bottom of the third, though, when Beecher's No. 9 hitter, David Arroyo, was hit by a pitch and then scored on a double by Duane Doss, who finished with two hits and scored twice. Doss then stole second and went to third on a grounder by Stout. He then scored on a single through the middle by Matt Gaffney to give Beecher a 2-1 lead.
The Bobcats, who will play Casey-Westfield in the state quarterfinals at noon Friday, pushed across two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Arroyo led off with a walk and Doss walked as well. An errant pickoff throw to second sent Arroyo to third before Doss stole second. Stout then singled up the middle to score both runners and cap the scoring for the day.
The Saratoga defense came up with a big play in the second inning. With a runner on first, Beechers Joe Kwasnicka hit a grounder to third. Paul Mitchell fielded it and threw to Macchietto, who turned and threw to Drew Darlington to complete the double play.
"We played well, but they did, too," Blaine said. "We didn't hit much, and they were able to get a couple of hits in key spots."
Despite the loss, Blaine was pleased with the season for his team, which finished 15-2 and won the school's third regional in the last four years and fourth in the last six.
"We had a real good season," he said. "It was nice to win our fourth regional in the last six years. This is a real good group of kids. When it's baseball season, they are committed to baseball. We encourage them all to play different sports, because they are too young to not be playing as many as they can. But whatever season it is, they put everything they have into it."