Few high school baseball teams win their final game.
Even fewer win the way Grayslake Central did on Saturday.
The Rams scored the game's only run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give them a 1-0 victory over Mt. Vernon in the Class 3A third-place game at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Not only was the game scoreless between Grayslake Central starter Kevin Peloza (9-0) and Mt. Vernon counterpart Tyler Ellis (8-3), but Ellis actually took a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth.
The game appeared destined for extra innings — and who knows when Grayslake Central (28-14) would finally scratch a hit off Ellis — before the Rams finally broke through.
Justin Allen led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to center field. Pinch-hitter Jay Hoffman sacrificed pinch runner Danny Reed to second, and then Reed moved to third on a groundout.
With two outs, Pat Burba delivered the clutch two-out single to center field to put Grayslake Central ahead 1-0.
“From my previous at-bats I thought he'd lead me off with a fastball like he did the previous at-bats,” Burba said. “I just told myself I was going to jump on the first good pitch I saw, and that was the first pitch. I just drove it up the middle.”
After that, Peloza capped a stunning stretch of 20 straight scoreless innings by ending the game with a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Peloza, who threw a no-hitter in Monday's supersectional win over Nazareth, pitched a 4-hitter with 6 strikeouts and no walks.
“We always remember our freshman year, we pretty much lost 20-plus games,” Peloza said. “And now to be here senior year, that's all we've worked for. It really paid off.”
Aside from the sixth inning, the Rams put only two runners on base. Joe Marisca was hit by a pitch in the third inning and Matt Loeffl walked in the fifth.
Mt. Vernon got their four singles in different innings, but Peloza didn't allow a runner to reach second base.
“The third-place game is tough because there's a lot of emotion extended in the semifinals,” said Rams coach Troy Whalen, whose team lost 6-3 to St. Francis in the semifinals. “We have a wind screen in dead center field that says '2009 3A third place.' And we said 'Guys we're going to put up new wind screen this year, and it's just a question of if it's going to say fourth place or third place.
“So now this one will replace the one in center field, and the '09 class will just move over a little bit,” he said.
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