With five college players in the starting lineup, Elk Grove used its experience to bounce Arlington 10-5 Saturday in the American Legion Division 1 championship bracket finals at Recreation Park in Arlington.
Elk Grove (29-5) is now just one win from advancing to the state finals. The Red Sox will need a victory Sunday at 3:05 against the winner of Arlington vs. Northbrook, who play at noon on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament.
"The nucleus really came to play today," Elk Grove coach Kevin Miller said. "We have counted on their play and leadership all season and today they really gave us a great effort."
Elk Grove was led by starting pitcher Danny Guido (Oakton College), who went 7 innings, striking out eight while allowing 5 hits and 1 run.
"I was just attacking the zone," said Guido, who fanned the first five batters he faced.
"The really weren't hitting the ball hard so I just kept throwing to the zone."
With Guido keeping Arlington in check, Elk Grove pounded out 17 hits with Thomas Byrne (Benedictine) and Jordan Grubb (Augustana) each knocking out 3 hits. Colin Bethran (Concordia-Chicago) had 2 hits and 3 RBI while Jeremy Hall (Harper) had a hit and picked a runner off of second from behind the plate.
"Today I just tried to take the ball the other way," said Byrne, who drove in one run with one of his 3 singles. "We have been hitting the ball pretty well all year."
Grubb, who tripled in one of his 3 hits, also had an RBI.
"It felt real good out here," Grubb said. "I have been seeing the ball real well."
Elk Grove tallied twice in the first inning on a 2-run single from Kyle Reinhart to make it 2-0.
It was 4-1 when Bethran gave the Red Sox some breathing room. The Schaumburg grad belted a triple to right-center to drive in a pair. He then scored on Hall's double. Brandon Cortez then doubled home Hall as Elk Grove built a 8-1 lead in the sixth.
"I have been hitting the ball real well," Bethran said. "It was a good time for it."
Arlington (20-13) closed to within 8-3 in the eighth on a 2-run double by Andrew Ferrante. Arlington had runners on first and second with two outs when Hall picked off the Arlington runner to end the threat.
"We made some mental mistakes," Arlington coach Lloyd Meyer said. "And we didn't pitch as well as we can either. But we were still in the game. There is still a lot of tournament left."
Elk Grove answered with 2 more runs in the bottom of the eighth as Cosimo Cannella scored on a wild pitch and Reinhart scored on Byrne's single.
Arlington tallied twice in the ninth to end the scoring. But the highlight of the inning was Bethran, who took a single away from a batter for the second consecutive game by throwing the player out at first base on a hard-hit ball to right.
"That's two in the tournament," Behran said. "I play shallow because I can move back on the ball real well. Both balls were hard hit and I knew I could get both batters."
Miller likes where his team is positioned right now.
"It is a great spot to be in," Miller said. "But anything can still happen. I tell our guys not to be satisfied."
Northbrook 6, Mt. Prospect 5: Mt. Prospect's season came to abrupt end when Northbrook rallied for 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth. Northbrook won the game with a one-out, bases-loaded suicide squeeze.
Second Division tournament
Barrington extended the double-elimination bracket by topping host Wheaton 6-4 in 10 innings in the first game Saturday. But Wheaton ended up winning the second game of the day between the teams 3-2 to eliminate Barrington and earn a spot in the upcoming state tournament.
In the first game, Scott Nelson had 3 hits, 2 RBI and also was the winning pitcher in relief.