Grayslake Central still in the running
The scoreboard said one thing.
The Grayslake Central Rams certainly felt another.
They were in the outfield Wednesday afternoon running sprints, moments after rolling over Lakeview 8-0 in the semifinals of the Class 3A baseball sectional that they are hosting at their own field.
"It (the sprinting) got us kind of mad," Grayslake Central starting pitcher Kevin Peloza said. "We're like, 'We just won. We shut them out.' We're looking at the board and it's 8-0. We don't want to be running, especially in a playoff game."
Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen is convinced that there won't be any more playoff games after Saturday's sectional championship game if his Rams don't get sharper. He figured some sprints might help to put that idea into focus.
The final 8-run margin was deceiving in that Grayslake Central got some gifts. Lake View allowed 3 Grayslake Central runs to come in on wild pitches and 2 runs to come in on errors. And before they rolled up three straight doubles on worn down Lake View starter Benji Comas in the sixth inning, the Rams had gotten only 3 hits through the first five innings. They had also left six runners stranded on base.
"It's the approach. We take good pitches and we swing at bad ones," said Whalen, whose team moves to 25-13 and will face the winner of today's semifinal between Wauconda and Richmond-Burton at 11 a.m. on Saturday. "Hitting's hard enough and sometimes we make it more difficult than it needs to be. It's frustrating as a coach.
"We did just enough today. We looked tired today. We'll have to play 10 times better on Saturday if we even want to be in the game."
Peloza kept Grayslake Central firmly in control of Lake View, which wraps up its season with a 13-22 record. Over six innings, he allowed only 3 hits while rolling up 11 strikeouts.
"Kevin gave us another great outing, that's what he does," Whalen said of Peloza, who moves to 7-0 on the season. "He just attacks you. He comes at you and is able to throw multiple pitches for strikes. His ball moves and any time you get a moving fastball at this level, you're going to get guys out."
Peloza mowed down Lake View early with his fastball, and then turned to his lethal curveball.
"He's one of the first lefties we've seen that can throw (curveballs) like that," said Comas, whose record on the mound dropped to 3-6 while he went 0-for-3 against Peloza. "There aren't that many guys in the city who can throw like that. He's one of the best we've seen."
Early on, Comas didn't look too bad himself. Grayslake Central catcher Freddie Landers was the only one to have much luck against Comas. He had 2 of the Rams' 3 hits through the first five innings.
"I just want to go up (to the plate) with that killer instinct," said Landers, the only Grayslake Central hitter with more than 1 hit on the day. "We'll all have that (killer instinct) by Saturday."
Grayslake Central will be playing in its fourth sectional championship game in the last five years. Last year, the Rams won the sectional on their own field.
"We can poke at the lack of hitting, but the bottom line is that these guys find a way to win," Whalen said. "It's a credit to these kids, and I get on them and say some things tongue in cheek, but I love coaching these guys. They're fun to be around and they work hard."
Lake View has had some consistent success of its own in recent years. The Wildcats were playing in their third sectional in five years.
"We got bounced in the first round of the city tournament this year and our guys could have easily packed it in," Lake View coach Brett Bildstein said. "But they came back strong and won the regional and I don't think anyone expected us to get out of the regional. I don't think anyone expected us to even compete in this game today either. But we at least battled.
"We just ran into a really tough pitcher (in Peloza). He had that curve ball going that we just weren't adjusting to. I haven't seen right-handed batters look that bad on a lefty curveball in a while. He had us guessing up there, which is the last thing we want to be doing."
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