Both coaches lauded the way Elgin pitcher Kyle Coates competed in a 2-1 victory over Larkin at Trout Park Wednesday.
Coates was perfect through four innings of the Upstate Eight River meeting until Larkin catcher Cy Kerber doubled to right field to open the fifth. Kerber scored on Gunnar Boley's line drive double to left, which halved Elgin's lead. That was it for Larkin offensively. Coates, a sidearming junior right-hander escaped further fifth-inning damage and dodged trouble in the sixth and seventh as Elgin (7-23, 2-15) evened the series heading into Thursday's finale at Larkin (8-16, 6-11).
Coates (3-4) held the Royals to 4 hits, walked none and struck out 10 to lower his earned-run average to 2.47 in 39⅔ innings.
"He competes. He's a competitor," Elgin coach David Foerster said. "That's what he's done for us the last two years. He's just a special kid, a special athlete, a special pitcher. We're very excited when he's on the mound for us. He gives us a chance every time he's out there."
Following Boley's fifth-inning double, Larkin starting pitcher Kobe Mounivong helped himself with a sacrifice bunt. He was called safe when Coates' throw pulled Elgin's first baseman off the bag. It was the last off-target throw Coates made in the fifth. With the tying run standing at third base with no outs, he struck out the next three batters in an 11-pitch sequence.
"As much as the strikeouts helped, I'm still not trying to do too much myself," said Coates, who has struck out 59 and walked 13. "I'm just trying to pitch to the bat, trying to make something happen. If the strikeouts come, they come. It was just a great way to get out of there."
Coates pitched to Kerber's bat in the sixth inning. After Max Anderson doubled to the right-field wall with two outs, Coates induced a groundout to shortstop JC Fortmann to preserve the 1-run lead.
"I like the way he competes. I told him that after the game," Larkin coach Matt Esterino said of Coates. "You have to tip your cap sometimes. He was very good today, and he deserved to win."
The Royals had an opportunity to tie in the seventh inning, but Boley was called out at third base on a bang-bang play trying to extend a leadoff double into a triple.
"I'll eat that," Esterino said. "That's a baseball play. I was trying to get him to third, you know, move him in with no one out. I kind of broke a cardinal rule and paid for it there so I'll take that. But we fought and that's what we do regardless of who we're playing."
Elgin broke a scoreless tie with 2 runs in the top of the fifth against Mounivong, who limited the Maroons to 2 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks and struck out 3 in 5 innings.
Eric Damerow started the rally. Elgin's No. 9 batter beat out a leadoff bunt, advanced to second on a passed ball, to third on Fortmann's fielder's choice and scored on Tim Mitchell's groundball to second.
The Maroons added a second run when RJ Bartlett worked the count full and drew a bases-loaded walk after his check swing was ruled no swing on appeal.
Boley went 2-for-3 and drove in the only run, and Jackson Reuter pitched 2 scoreless relief innings for Larkin.
Senior Matt Turner finished with 2 of Elgin's 8 hits.