Saturday's victory was a little more nerve-wracking than Grayslake Central baseball coach Troy Whalen would have liked.
The Rams led 9-1 after the top of the fifth inning before Hampshire scored 7 unanswered runs, but Grayslake Central held on for a 9-8 Fox Valley Conference Fox Division victory.
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"We never want to apologize for a win. We would have liked to put them away, but that's baseball," Whalen said. "I think you have to give the credit to Hampshire. They never quit. They battled every at-bat. When they saw the opening, they capitalized on it."
The Whip-Purs (4-7, 1-6) had the tying run on second, but Ryan Dones got a strikeout for the final out to earn his first save.
The Rams (9-8, 4-3) scored three times in the top of the first to grab the early lead. Ryan Fontana, who was 3-for-3 with 3 RBI, had a 2-run single with the bases loaded and Pat Burba had an RBI infield single. They increased the lead to 5-0 in the second. Matt Loeffl drove in Danny Reed with a triple and scored on Kyle Balling's single. A 2-run home run from Kyle Clark in the third gave Grayslake Central a 7-0 lead.
"We scored more runs today than we have in the last three games," Whalen said. "We were pretty ecstatic by that. And we drove the ball."
The Whip-Purs, who didn't get a hit until the sixth inning, scored in the bottom of the third. Timothy Jansen reached on an error and stole second. Back-to-back sacrifice flies from Michael Dumoulin and Brandon Bowen brought Jansen home.
Balling, who went 4-for-4 with 2 doubles and 3 runs scored, scored on a wild pitch in the fifth and scored on a Fontana run-scoring single in the sixth to make it 9-1.
Tyler Crater led off the Whip-Purs' sixth inning with a double, Hampshire's first hit. He scored on Rucelle Consigny's single. After 2 walks and a strikeout, Jansen drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 9-3. Dumoulin had a 2-run single and Bowen drove in another run with a single as the Whip-Purs cut the deficit to 9-6.
Crater led off the seventh with a single and Michael Merchut walked. After a sacrifice bunt, Michael Laramie drove in them both in with a single to center. Dones came in and got the final two outs to end the game.
"We put ourselves in a hole," Whip-Purs coach John Sarna said. "We stayed with it. When you put yourself (eight) runs down, it's hard to come back and win those type of ballgames."
Jack Spicer (2-2) earned the victory for the Rams. The senior right-hander, who was pitching on four days rest, did not give up a hit in 4 innings. He walked 2, hit a batter and struck out 3.