When Grayslake Central's "Bubble Boy" spectacularly grabbed the perilous popup, it was a burst-your-bubble moment for McHenry.
The out saved a big run, after all.
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"Bubble Boy" then popped ... up.
Jay Kleinofen, the kid with the airy nickname, sprung to his baseball spikes and hustled to the visitors' dugout after recording the final out of the bottom of the fifth.
What, the injury-prone middle infielder didn't crack a bone, pull a hamstring, skin a knee or suffer a Jay Cutler thumb fate when he tumbled to the Fred Meyer Field grass at Peterson Park?
"That's the first thing everybody asked me when I came in -- 'Is he unscathed? Is he all right?' " Kleinofen said with a laugh.
Jay Kleinofen? All good.
Grayslake Central's come-from-behind, 6-3 win over host McHenry on Saturday? That, too, was all good.
On a day when they were short on pitching and without hard-hitting Jon Gurchak (injury), the Rams got lifts from seldom-used pitchers Kevin Peloza and Ryan Dones and second baseman Kleinofen, who came off the bench to spark the team with both his defense and offense.
The Fox Valley Conference victory capped a week that saw Grayslake Central (10-5, 4-1) previously beat Huntley, Dundee-Crown and Jacobs.
"For us to go 4-0 this week against four of the top teams in the Fox Valley Conference is just amazing," Rams coach Troy Whalen said. "Especially given where we were with arms.
"These kids are fighters."
Kleinofen's long list of injuries would make a prizefighter blush.
"We call him 'Bubble Boy' because every time he falls down he gets hurt," Whalen said, smiling. "I'm not sure there's a bone left in his body that hasn't been bruised."
"Coach Ecker (assistant coach Joe Ecker) came up with (the nickname) last year," Kleinofen said. "I have a notorious injury history."
It includes, by Kleinofen's count, around 15 broken bones, dating back to when he was 3. Earlier this season, the senior broke his nose in practice.
"We were playing catch, and I just missed (the ball)," Kleinofen said with a sheepish grin.
Good thing he recently shed that protective mask he was wearing.
McHenry (11-5) was trying to add to a 2-1 lead in its half of the fifth. The Warriors' Devon Gehrke was on third after leading off the frame with a double and moving to third on Cody Freund's bunt. Dones, a junior and JV call-up whose only previous varsity mound action consisted of 1 inning on the Rams' Spring Break trip to Florida, came on in relief of starter Peloza.
Grayslake Central's little righty got No. 3 hitter Alex Obenauf (2-for-4, double) to pop out. That brought up Cole Hoeppel-Tranter, who hit a looper into shallow center field.
"I took a drop-step right away and then I noticed that I overran (the ball)," Kleinofen said. "I tried to stick my glove out to knock it up in the air, so I'd have another chance. It just bounced off my chest and I caught it."
"I told him it was one of the best catches I've seen," Whalen said.
"If he had the mask on, maybe he doesn't catch it."
"That was amazing," said Peloza, a junior lefty who pitched 4 solid innings in his first varsity start.
Kleinofen's back-to-the-infield defensive gem coincided with the Rams breaking out for 4 runs in the sixth to take the lead.
Ryan Fontana's hit-and-run single scored recent sophomore call-up Matt Loeffl and pulled Grayslake Central even. The Rams went ahead 3-2 when a hustling Sean Boban was safe at first on a wide throw. After a Kyle Balling single, Kleinofen delivered an RBI single.
Kleinofen had entered the game as a pinch runner in the fifth.
"He gets it," Whalen said. "He was mentally ready. He knew he was going to get his shot."
Peloza was another Ram who took advantage of his chance. He threw first-pitch strikes and kept ball down while pitching into the fifth. A misplayed ball in left field resulted in the first of 3 straight singles by McHenry in the second and the game's first run.
"I was throwing mostly fastballs with curveballs and change-ups all mixed in," said Peloza, who allowed 2 runs (both earned), struck out three and walked one. "I just rested up last night, came in with a purpose and did my job."
Peloza happens to live in his head coach's neighborhood.
"I told him now when he goes by, I'll wave to him," Whalen joked.
"I've known the kid since he was 7. It makes it a little bit special when you see kids in your neighborhood who grow up being Rams. They look forward to being in your program."
Dones earned the win, working 1 innings and hitting a pair but getting big outs.
"For him to come in with a man on third and less than two outs (in the fifth) and make quality pitches against the meat of their order," Whalen said, "was huge."
Rams left-hander Christian Edwards got out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the save. He struck out three of the four batters he faced. The Rams had added an insurance run in the top half when Ryan Hamrick (2-for-4, 2 stolen bases) singled home Nick Hosford (2-for-3, double, 2 stolen bases).
"Coach challenged us before the game," Kleinofen said. "We got a couple of guys hurt. We got Gurchak out, and he's our No. 4 hitter. We just had to come through, and we did."