Even if he didn’t reach the trees Monday night, South Elgin’s Ben Karpowicz took a page out of Kyle Schwarber’s book on making good first impressions.
On June 20, 2014, Schwarber was one of the best prospects to be sent to Kane County. In his second game for the Cougars, he hit a home run that disappeared into the trees.
A year later, Schwarber was in the majors with the Cubs. But a youngster named Ben Karpowicz was in the stadium that night for Schwarber’s Kane County debut.
“That’s one of the big memories of my youth,” said Karpowicz, who’s now a senior third baseman for the Storm. “It ended up in the forest out there.”
With a pair of home runs, Karpowicz had a game to remember in his first chance to play at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva, sending the Storm to a 14-0 Upstate Eight Conference victory over Bartlett in five innings.
The Illinois State recruit led off the bottom of the first inning for South Elgin (17-3, 15-2) by launching a solo homer off the scoreboard in left field.
Then in the second, with runners on second and third, Karpowicz blasted another homer into the left field party deck.
“He’s our table setter,” South Elgin coach Jim Kating said of Karpowicz, who has eight home runs this season. “He’s coming into his own. He’s been taking good at-bats.
“He understands the game real well. He’s a pretty brain kid. He’s been doing a good job.”
Karpowicz, who had two strikes during his at-bat in the first inning, battled to get the Storm on the board.
“I was just in fight mode,” Karpowicz said. “The worst way to start the game is punching out. I have all the power in the world, I think. I didn’t know, but I just kept seeing the center fielder and left fielder run toward the fence and it got out for me.”
Karpowicz was in the same spot, down two strikes in the second inning. After fouling off some pitches, he unloaded.
“That’s what I spend a lot of time working on in the cage — fighting with two strikes, my little B swing as I call it,” Karpowicz said. “I knew what was expected with a base open and the lead.
“I was looking for sliders most of the at-bat and finally he left one over the plate that I could really get my barrel to.”
Bartlett (12-12, 10-7) walked Karpowicz in the third, but the Storm still put together a nine-run inning to extend the lead. Josh Genz had the big hit with a three-run double.
Kyle Swalley was tagged with the pitching loss. Three errors by the Hawks didn’t help his cause.
“I’m really happy with his performance,” Bartlett coach Christopher Baum said of Swalley. “He’s looked really, really good. I had a nice talk with him before.
“Regardless of the outcome, the one thing he did was his composure stayed really good. He still went out and competed. That’s a big step in the right direction.”
Drew Piaskowy (5-0) was dominant for South Elgin. He struck out nine without a walk and allowed three hits in five innings.
“Drew has been our warrior all year,” Kating said. “He’s done a really good job on the mound. He likes to compete. It’s really hard taking him out of games because he never wants to come out.”
After dropping two of three games to Streamwood, South Elgin has rattled off five straight wins.
Karpowicz said the Storm had some extra juice thanks to Monday’s venue.
“This was really important,” Karpowicz said. “For some guys, it was their first time stepping on a really nice field. You could feel the energy.
“Everybody was on the edge of the dugout just to get on the field. Everybody was just itching to go throughout the whole team.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.