HENNEPIN | Dylan Kish has a problem.
After Kish and his Illinois Lutheran teammates beat North Shore County Day 12-7 in Thursday’s Class 1A Putnam County Sectional semifinal, the Chargers’ senior third baseman and his teammates will play for the school’s first-ever sectional title at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Problem is Kish and senior second baseman Zach Kotecki are supposed to graduate at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I am going to play baseball,” Kish proclaimed. “It’s the sport I’ve played for so long, and nothing can beat it. You have no idea how happy I am to miss graduation. It doesn’t get any better than baseball.”
With Illinois Lutheran down 6-1 in the middle of the third inning, Kish hit a towering three-run home run that was part of a six-run frame for the Chargers that gave them an advantage they never gave back.
“We decided to leave graduation alone and we are just going to have a little ceremony for the kids,” Illinois Lutheran coach Mark Kjenstad said. “We are going to hand out their diplomas after the game.”
The win over NSCD was Illinois Lutheran’s first sectional victory and advances the Chargers (21-7) to the sectional title game where they will play Ottawa Marquette (29-7), which beat Illinois Lutheran 8-0 earlier this season in Putnam County’s wooden bat tournament on April 20.
“It’s a very good feeling to take that next step and get a sectional win, but of course we are not satisfied,” Kjenstad said. “As long as we’re going, we’d like to keep going, but we are very thrilled with winning a sectional game.”
After the first seven NSCD hitters reached in the top of the first and gave the Crusaders (15-4) a 4-0 lead, the Illinois Lutheran offense picked up the slack.
Down 6-1, an RBI single by catcher Mack Newson came right before Kish’s three-run bomb that pulled the Chargers to 6-5.
Two batters later, designated hitter Jared Buzan hit a go-ahead two-run home run that gave Illinois Lutheran the lead for good.
The blasts were two of four home runs hit by the Chargers. Shortstop Sam Geraci added a solo home run in the fourth and Jayson Williams hit a three-run blast in the fifth.
“What (the homers are) is just the result of a lot of hard work,” Kish said. “None of our guys really try to put the ball out. We are all trying to hit line drives. We just want to get singles, but when you connect the ball just flies.”
Buzan was brought in to relieve after Illinois Lutheran starter Colton Moore allowed six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. He shut down the NSCD offense as he allowed just one unearned run on two hits in 4 1/3 innings pitched.
Geraci led the Chargers at the plate as he went 4-for-4 with a single, two doubles, a home run, four runs scored and an RBI. In all, the Chargers had 15 hits in the win.