Playing hurt? Villarreal knows the drill
Jordan Villarreal, left, embraces Jared Helmich after Grant's loss to Oak Park-River Forest in the Class 4A state semifinals Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Paul Michna | Staff Photographer
JOLIET — We have new Jordan Rules.
They state: Break your jaw during pregame warm-ups, then play a whole baseball game without anyone ever guessing that just chewing on a sunflower seed must hurt like heck.
Grant junior shortstop Jordan Villarreal just might be the toughest baseball player around. He was last Monday night, anyway.
Villarreal took a hard-hit batted ball during pregame off his face and then didn't miss a beat (or groundball) in the Bulldogs' Class 4A supersectional win against Schaumburg at RiverHawks Stadium in Rockford.
He went 2-for-4.
He stole his 11th base of the season.
And he didn't make an error at shortstop.
For real, Villarreal?
With his mouth wired shut, Villarreal could be only a cheerleader during Grant's 8-2 loss to Oak Park in a state semifinal at Silver Cross Field on Friday. He had his baseball uniform on, but was unavailable to play. He'll watch again today, when the Bulldogs take on Minooka for third place.
"We found, for sure (that the jaw was broken), the day after, Tuesday," Grant coach Dave Behm said. "They wired it Wednesday."
Talk about a bad break, an achy one.
Villarreal, a varsity baseball player since his freshman year, had an all-area season. The Bulldogs' No. 2 hitter was batting .423 with 11 doubles, 3 homers, 43 runs scored and 32 RBI.
"I feel like we've gotten to the point with our lineup where everybody has their role," Behm said. "When we have a good approach, it's a really tough lineup. Jake (Ring) at the top. (Ryan) Noda at the bottom. The 3-4-5 through the middle is super tough, and Jordan is that (No.) 2 hitter, where you'd think maybe you'd get a batter off, and you don't."
Grant didn't lose a baseball game Friday because it didn't have its star shortstop, but you can bet the Bulldogs missed Villarreal's spark both in the field and at the plate.
"We're losing one of our starters so nothing is going to be the same," said catcher Simeon Lucas, who was the Bulldogs' silver lining at Silver Cross Field, going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and an RBI. "I think we kind of took him for granted, and then when he's gone, it's, 'Oh. What do we do now?' That's a big position to fill. He's definitely one of our better hitters, he's one of our faster guys, and he's probably one of the more encouraging kids in the dugout."
Villarreal just became even more inspirational.
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