With 59 years directing the Arlington Heights American Legion team and eight state championships, manager Lloyd Meyer has certainly seen his team enjoy some stellar days of baseball.
Sunday was another one.
On the brink of elimination from the Division I tourney at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights, Meyer's club scored 3 runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to edge Northbrook 7-6.
Post 208 then held on three hours later for a 5-3 victory over the tourney's only previously undefeated team, Elk Grove, to give itself a chance for the title today at 1 p.m. on the Lloyd W. Meyer Field.
Arlington (22-13) will face Elk Grove (28-6) for the championship of the double-elimination event at 1 p.m. Monday.
Right in the middle of both big wins for Arlington was Mike Smith, a left-handed pitcher who will be a senior at Prospect this fall.
Smith threw the final 12⁄3 innings of each game, getting the win against Northbrook and the save against Elk Grove.
Smith, who retired five of the six batters he faced against Elk Grove, gave the credit to Arlington starter Andrew Ferrante for the team's success in the victory that set up today's rematch.
"It was because of him (Ferrante) that we got the win," Smith said. "I was just trying to save it."
Ferrante, who recently graduated from St. Viator and will study at Miami of Ohio, went 71⁄3 innings and held the Red Sox to no runs and 4 hits until the seventh, when Elk Grove scored 3 unearned runs.
"He's pretty crafty," Meyer said of Ferrante. "I felt bad for him. He was getting tired and was just a hair off. They got some hits off the end of the bat, too. I didn't think he got hit that hard."
Red Sox first-year coach Kevin Miller, who also played for Elk Grove against Arlington in a Division title game in 2008, is hoping his team can rebound today.
"Ferrante threw a heck of a game," Miller said. "He kept us off balance the whole way. And that little lefty (Smith) was tough. That was a gutsy performance. They deserved to win with the way those two pitched."
Ferrante also keyed his team on offense, going 3-for-4 with an RBI single in the first and RBI double in the eighth.
The right-hander was given a 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
A one-out single to right by Jake Cavaiani (3-for-4) and a double over the left fielder's head by Tommy Flahaven gave Post 208 runners at second and third.
Right fielder Mike Dolan (2-for-4) drove them in with a single to center, and he came home two batters later on Ferrante's single to center.
Arlington extended the lead to 4-0 in the third when Dolan led off with a double to the right-center gap and scored on Mick Wazorick's two-out single to right.
Max Paolicchi went the first three innings for Elk Grove while Alex Tinkoff threw the final six.
The only run Tinkoff gave up came in the top of the eighth. Ferrante doubled to left with two outs to score John Burkiewicz, who had singled to center in the previous at-bat.
That run gave Arlington a 5-0 cushion.
The Red Sox generated some offense in the bottom of the eighth when Patrick O'Malley reached on an error with one out.
Four straight singles by Tom Byrne, Jordan Grubb (3-for-5), Colin Bethran (2-for-4) and Cosimo Cannella led to 3 runs and the Red Sox still had the bases loaded with one out when Meyer called upon Smith.
The lefty got a fly out to shallow right and then used a fastball after some off-speed pitches to get a strikeout for the final out of the inning.
Smith was nearly as effective in the ninth, getting the first two outs on a grounder to shortstop Cavaiani and a strikeout. After a walk to Byrne, Smith got the final out on a fly to center fielder Burkiewicz.
"We played great defense and got some timely hits," Meyer said. "We try to play better fundamental baseball as time goes on, so maybe we've arrived. We'll see."
Today's game will be the sixth meeting this season between the two teams. Elk Grove lead the series 3-2.
"It's not time for us to hit the panic button," Miller said. "We're 28-6 so we know how to win games.
"Luckily we were in a position to get a mulligan. Hopefully we can come back and get a win. If not, they are a very good team and they deserved it."