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updated: 5/23/2013 9:54 PM

Grayslake Central gets it going, rallies by Johnsburg

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Sometimes the bus drivers have to double-check their passenger lists.

Are they carrying the Grayslake Central baseball team, or an order of monks who have taken a vow of silence?

"Every bus driver we've had this season on our long Fox Valley Conference trips are always like, 'This is the most well behaved bunch of kids I've ever seen.' And yeah, they're well behaved, and it's not like we want the kids to be throwing things on the bus and acting crazy, but it's like 'Show a pulse. Please! '" Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said with emphasis. "Our guys don't say anything. They are just a very quiet group, very docile."

The problem for the Rams is that sometimes their passive, quiet bus disposition becomes their field disposition.

And Whalen called them out for that on Thursday in their Class 3A regional semifinal game at Lakes, shortly before they pulled out a 4-2 victory against Johnsburg.

The fourth-seeded Skyhawks took a 1-run lead in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI-double by catcher Brandon Krennrich. As he stood atop the second base bag, Krennrich pumped his fists emphatically and let out a few primal screams.

"Look at that emotion those guys are showing," Whalen shouted towards his dugout as he pointed toward second base. "This is the biggest game of the year and we don't have that. We don't have that emotion. That's been in our DNA all season. We've been missing that all season."

The top-seeded Rams, who move to 23-13 and will play in their sixth straight regional championship game on Saturday against the winner of today's game between No. 3 Antioch and No. 2 Lakes, found some spunk after that.

In the bottom of the inning, they tied the game at 2-2 when AJ Hord scored from third on a botched pick-off attempt by the Skyhawks. The dugout went wild.

The decibel level kicked up a few more notches when Grayslake Central continued its run in the sixth inning. The Rams took advantage of three Johnsburg errors in the inning to score their final two runs.

"(Whalen's DNA comments) definitely charged us up," said Grayslake Central right fielder Sterling Dixon, who scored one of the sixth-inning runs. "The seniors didn't want settle for that. We didn't want this to be our last game. We definitely used that to get some momentum and get some runs across."

Matt Loeffl drove in the Rams' other run when he smacked a pitch back to the mound and the pitcher sent his throw to first over the first baseman's head.

"That doesn't happen often," Loeffl said. "But you just always hustle and make them make a play and maybe they throw it away. That kind of pushed them over (the edge)."

After that third consecutive error, the Skyhawks (12-17) pulled starting pitcher Collin Ridout, who had been sailing along.

"It's sad to see it end like this," said Ridout, who went 2-4 on the mound this season. "It's always stressful (to have multiple errors in an inning). But the people who win are the people who bounce back the best and unfortunately, we couldn't bounce back today. It just wasn't our day."

Meanwhile, Grayslake Central starter Kevin Peloza bounced back from his rough fifth inning, in which he gave up 2 runs and 3 hits. He finished up the game to run his record on the mound to 6-0. He rolled up 8 strikeouts along the way.

"I got into some trouble there, but I got out of it," Peloza said. "I've got these lines (of words and sayings) that I've written on the inside of my hat. I've highlighted some of them. It's a lot of motivational stuff. I just take off my hat and read them when I'm out there, and it calms me down."

Offensively, Dixon was the only player for Grayslake Central to have multiple hits. He had 2 singles.

Kevin Kordik had 2 singles for Johnsburg and Ridout and Krennrich both had doubles.

"We showed a lot of character and heart and we never gave up," Johnsburg coach Sam Lesniak said. "We've battled all year like that. It was great to see everyone support each other the way we did.

"Collin battled his butt off on the mound today, but we made errors that didn't help him out. You hope to overcome and prevent the snowball effect and that's the hardest thing in baseball. We just couldn't do that, and that's a shame."

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