Clutch is a good thing to be when facing an opponent that has won 14 of 17.
The Cary-Grove baseball team cooled off surging McHenry 5-4 in Cary on Tuesday, partly by scoring 4 runs with two outs.
Andrew Splitt's RBI single in the first inning came with two away, as did Jason Barrett's 2-run double in the second.
The Trojans' most important two-out run crossed the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning, when courtesy runner George Hartke scampered home from third base on a passed ball to establish the 5-4 lead.
"It seemed like every time we'd get two outs we couldn't get that third out," McHenry coach Brian Rockweiler said. "Good for them. They competed and they played hard."
Cary-Grove's clutch hits camouflaged some blemishes, including 3 errors.
"We missed signs and we made some mistakes," Cary-Grove coach Don Sutherland said, "but we came up with some clutch hits with two outs and good pitching got us a win."
Splitt started on the mound for Cary-Grove and left with the lead after 6 innings. He gave way to left-handed reliever Larkin Hanselmann, who played with fire before he extinguished it.
With one out in the seventh, the 5-foot-8, 133-pound Hanselmann allowed a line-drive hit by Cody Freund and a swinging bunt hit by Mike Borst. He bounced back to record his second save of the season when McHenry's cleanup hitter struck out looking at a fastball and the next batter sent a lazy flyball to Barrett in right field to end it.
The loss dropped McHenry to 14-4 overall, 7-2 within the Fox Valley Conference's competitive Valley Division. Idle Jacobs (9-1) still leads the division, followed by McHenry, Dundee-Crown (7-2) and Huntley (7-2).
Cary-Grove (12-8, 7-3) is fifth in the FVC Valley but only 2 games off the lead with 9 conference games to play.
"It's just a big team lift," Hanselmann said of beating a team that had won four straight. "We can play with anybody."
Cary-Grove answered whenever McHenry scored. When the Warriors scored twice in the second inning to take a 2-1 lead on RBI singles by Payton Lykins and Robert Nagel, the Trojans answered in their half with Barrett's 2-run, opposite-field double. The left-handed hitter deftly angled a 1-0 outside fastball to left field.
"We've always been taught that when there are guys on base, bases loaded, to attack early in the count if you get a good pitch," said Barrett, who collected 2 of Cary-Grove's 7 hits. "I got a fastball on the outer half a little bit and I took it the other way."
The Warriors tied the game 3-3 in the third inning when junior Jack Glosson doubled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Freund's groundout.
The Trojans reclaimed a 4-3 lead with Wyatt Mascarella's second home run of the season, which glanced off Glosson's mitt and over the left-field wall.
McHenry tied it 4-4 in the fifth when Borst stole third base and scored on an errant throw by the catcher, but Cary-Grove responded a final time when Hartke scored the game-winning run on a passed ball.
Luke Weston (2-1) took the loss for the Warriors. He allowed 5 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and a walk and struck out three. Splitt (3-2) struck out 6, allowed 4 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits and 4 walks and benefitted from his team's timely hitting.
"It was great to see us come out swinging, especially against a team like McHenry at the top of the conference," Splitt said. "It's a good win for us and a great momentum booster."