Josh Gimre picked the right day to execute those pickup moves that he and West Chicago's other pitchers work on diligently.
And when reliever Kyle Nielson caught the most dangerous base runner on the field straying off first base, the visiting Wildcats had picked up a much-welcomed win.
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Facing a good-hitting Grant team with the wind whipping toward the outfield fences on a blustery morning in Fox Lake, West Chicago appeared on the verge of winning in 5 innings before settling for a 9-5 win Tuesday.
"The way we started this game, I thought we were going to have a little bit of breathing room," said coach Dan McCarthy, whose 3-3 Wildcats bolted to a 9-0 lead after two innings, but found themselves in another tight one (their 3 losses are by a combined 4 runs) before the nonconference game was over. "But (Grant) came back. With the wind blowing out, you never know. It's good to get a victory."
West Chicago picked off four base runners, including a pair off second base. That helped make up for the Wildcats getting outhit 11-8.
"With our offense, we think we're always in games," said Grant coach Dave Behm, whose Bulldogs fell to 1-2. "We didn't get that big hit today."
Gimre helped himself not only with a 2-run triple during the Wildcats' 7-run second inning but also by picking off 3 Bulldogs while pitching into the fifth.
"That helps a lot when you can get easy outs," Gimre said, "especially when you're struggling as a pitcher."
Grant knocked Gimre out of the game with one out in the fifth, two on and one run already in. After he walked eighth-place-hitting sophomore Tino Torres, Gimre was relieved by Nielson.
"I just couldn't find the strike zone," said Gimre, who walked four and allowed 10 hits in his 41⁄3 innings. "Early on I was feeling good. I don't know what happened. It was one of those days where you're trying to get it across the plate but it just isn't working for you. And give (Grant) a lot of credit. They were taking a lot of pitches, making me go deep in the count."
Grant got back-to-back RBI doubles in the third from Simeon Lucas and Brent Spohr (3-for-4), a run-scoring double in the fourth from Jordan Villarreal (2-for-4) and an RBI single from Jacob Adams (2-for-4) in the fifth. But Nielson helped prevent further damage in the fifth and kept Gimre in line for the win when he got Jake Ring to fly out with the bases loaded and then Villarreal to bounce into a fielder's choice.
Grant threatened again in the seventh. Ryan Noda's RBI groundout scored Adams. Nielson then walked Jake Ring, putting runners on first and third. That put the tying run on deck.
Ring's fourth-inning stolen base -- on a pitchout -- was his sixth of the season, after he swiped 40 on varsity as a sophomore last season. McCarthy said both Nick Driscoll and Joe Loftus had seen Ring during some showcases last summer, and the two West Chicago players knew of Ring's prolific stolen-base total last season.
With Villarreal at the plate, Nielson threw to first baseman Mike Zajac. As Ring took off for second, Zajac's throw to second baseman Ryan Koester, who was positioned near the base path, was in plenty of time to tag Ring for the final out.
"That was my fault," Behm said. "A kid like Jake, you think they're probably going to give him the base anyway. With how they were playing the game, though, that was a bad decision. They were picking us off all day."
It was nothing new for McCarthy, who used to coach some great teams at Joliet Catholic.
"It's something we always emphasized, and we brought it over here to West Chicago," McCarthy said. "We do a lot of the same things (Joliet Catholic) does. We try to bunt a lot. We try to incorporate a lot of different pickoffs. Today it was huge for us."
Spohr was big for Grant offensively with 3 doubles in his first 3 at-bats. He has 6 doubles in the Bulldogs' first three games. As a sophomore last year. he led the team in doubles.
"He worked really hard in the off-season, and it shows," Behm said. "He's fine with hitting line drives all over the place and getting two bases."
"I'm just keeping my eye on the ball and relaxing up there," Spohr said.
Grant right-hander Zach Niedrich kept Grant in the game after West Chicago knocked out the lefty Ring in the second inning. After being greeted with RBI hits by Driscoll (double), Gimre (triple), Graham Draper (single) and Zach Bauler (single), Niedrich threw 5 scoreless innings. He struck out five and walked only one.
"He did a good job," Gimre said. "He peppered the strike zone, he threw strikes and he shut us down. It was good to get out (to the big lead) early. That always helps as a pitcher."
Driscoll (2 RBI doubles), Gimre and Draper each had 2 hits for the Wildcats. Niedrich allowed only 2 hits, including a bunt single by Draper, in his final 5 innings.
"Zach came in and pitched great," Spohr said. "We woke up a little bit, started swinging the bats, and we looked good. We looked like a team."