Posted Online: May 19, 2011, 10:51 pm

Braves upset by Elgin in Region IV opener

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CRYSTAL LAKE -- This was hardly the start that Black Hawk College baseball coach Arnie Chavera envisioned.

In their first-round NJCAA Region IV Regional Tournament contest on Thursday in Crystal Lake, the top-seeded Braves (44-8) -- ranked No. 4 in the country -- played what their coached called one of their "poorer games of the season" in a 5-3 loss to No. 5 seed Elgin (41-17).

Yet, the fact that his Braves were in it until the end gives the coach hope of turning things around as the double-elimination tournament continues. The Braves will play Kankakee today at 9 a.m., and with a victory, would play the loser of Elgin and Madison at 3 p.m. Black Hawk must win both of those games, plus beat the remaining undefeated team twice on Saturday, if it wants to stay alive.

Keeping them alive, Chavera hopes, is pitching depth.

The Braves will go with Adam Karger today in Game 1 -- an 8-0 sophomore from Batavia. He's 16-1 in his BHC career. If needed, Chavera said they will relieve with former Alleman standout Keelan Prince. Otherwise, Prince will be saved for the hopeful Game 2.

"I think we're optimistic," Chavera said. "We have the pitching depth. If we can win Game 1, the momentum changes. Momentum is huge in the playoffs. ... If we can get to Saturday, we would be playing a team's four and five starters, but we have the most pitching depth of the teams here. We like our odds."

In Thursday's hiccup, a five-run Elgin fourth made all the difference. In that inning, the Braves surrendered four hits, allowed one walk and committed a costly two-run error. Offensively, BHC scored on a dropped-third strike passed ball in the first. Then in the eighth, J. Golden and Mark VanNatta laced RBI singles. The rally, though, wasn't enough.

"This one caught us by surprise," Chavera said. "The guys made a valiant effort and gave us a chance."