By VINCE PELUSO
For the Star Beacon
The Geneva Eagles finally got to play a home game Monday and didn’t waste the opportunity.
Connor DiGiacomo threw a complete game and the Eagles scored runs in innings three through six to take out Premier Athletic Conference foe Lakeside, 5-1.
“The first thing we did is throw strikes, which is a big thing we need to get taken care of, lately we’ve been walking too many guys,” Geneva (2-4, 2-2) coach Justin Drapp said. “But then when they did hit the ball, the defense was there to shut them down. We did have one error and we could’ve let that snowball but we didn’t. We got the second and third out right after that.”
DiGiacomo was excellent throughout, retiring 12 of the first 14 Dragons he faced, fanning 11 throughout and walking just one.
The only person to get a hit off DiGiacomo through the first five innings was his counterpart on the mound, Nick Meola, who was 3-for-3 with a double.
Lakeside coach Andy Kiphart credited DiGiacomo for throwing an effective fastball, but admitted he wasn’t satisfied with his team’s approach at the plate.
“That kid, obviously, had a decent fastball, he was sneaky fast and were late early on,” he said. “Then toward the middle to the end of the game, we started taking fastball strikes, which is not going to be a good approach.
“He didn’t walk anyone until the last inning, he was throwing strikes. We’ve just got to be up there ready to hit.”
Geneva got on the board in the bottom of the third when DiGiacomo reached on a single, stole second (his second stolen base of the game) then scored on a Dan Camplese single.
Camplese came up big for the Eagles, going 3-for-3 with two RBI.
“Danny stepped up today,” Drapp said. “That’s what we preached, somebody’s gotta step up if we’re not hitting and get the team going and he was a real fire starter today.”
Geneva added two more in the fourth when David Smalley came all the way home from first on a throwing error then Kyle Burkhammer brought home Eric Juncker on a single to make the score, 3-0.
The Eagles made the score 4-0 in the fifth when Josh Sanchez, who struck out but reached first on a throwing error, came home on another Camplese single.
“We definitely started slow, guys weren’t waiting back, you gotta wait back and hit it up the middle,” Drapp said. “I think we were trying to do too much rather than letting the pitch come to them and we were trying to lunge for it.
“We stuck with it though and settled in. We had some battles at the plate and were able to get guys on base.”
Kiphart’s group answered back in the top of the sixth.
Meola hammered a double to left field and Austin DiBell followed with a single to put runners on the corners with one out.
Jared Pasrons plated Meola on a ground ball to third that turned into a throwing error and left runners at first and second and the score 4-1.
But, DiGiacomo settled in and struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning.
“Connor’s definitely one of our go-to guys this year,” Drapp said. “Every game he’s pitched he’s kept us in a great position to win, we just need to support him like we did today.”
Geneva added an insurance run in the fifth when Juncker smacked a one-out double to left then pinch-runner Vern Thompson came home on a Brandon Kovach single to left.
The Eagles score three runs and got three hits from their No. 7 through 9 hitters, something Drapp was happy about.
“Any support from the bottom of the order is good,” he said. “Juncker made a nice adjustment at the plate that we talked about before the game, his only two hits before that were kind of pop ups, but today he was hitting the ball hard.”
Caleb Garcia led off the seventh with a walk for Lakeside (3-6, 0-3), but DiGiacomo retired the next three batters to close the game out.
The Dragons’ three errors were cause for concern for Kipharrt, who said he’s seen his team struggle in the field throughout the first nine games of the season.
“We make some critical errors in critical moments,” he said. “(Meola) makes them put the ball in play. If we make plays, he keeps us in the game. If we don’t make plays, then the score looks worse than it was.
“For us, it’s just about relaxing and being confident in making plays. We just seem to tense up.”
Drapp was happy his team finally got to play at home, three weeks into the season.
“We didn’t quite have the crowd that they did at Progressive Field,” he said with a laugh. “But we had beautiful weather. Hopefully, we’ll have some more days like this. It was a good day all around for Geneva.”
In his third year with the Eagles, Drapp likes what he’s seen from his team so far.
“We’re definitely improved from last year, we’re having that quiet confidence that we’ve been preaching for three years here,” he said. “The kids are starting to listen, starting to believe in the program and they know that they’re better that what their record has been in previous years.
“Every game we’ve been in has been a close game and that’s something we’re priding ourselves on and we’re starting to find a way to win these close games.”