Some young athletes who are learning the ropes experience the anecdotal kind of "growing pains."
Grayslake Central junior pitcher David Llorens has had the real ones this season.
Just 5-foot-7 last year as a sophomore, Llorens is now 6-foot-4. His body was having a bit of trouble adjusting to its explosive growth spurt.
"I've had really tight muscles. My growth plate in my arm used to be open because I had grown so fast," Llorens said. "So I haven't been able to do too much. I'd get a lot of pain, especially in my elbow."
Llorens, a lefty, started Saturday's Fox Valley Conference game against Hampshire and guided Grayslake Central to a 3-0 victory. The win moves the Rams to 16-9 and keeps them in first place in the Fox Valley Fox with a 10-5 division record. They've won nine of their last 10 games.
Llorens went five full innings, a feat in itself. It was his longest stretch on the mound this season.
Also important was the fact that he pitched without pain. Llorens (3-1) has pitched sparingly in other games this season, and always with a level of discomfort.
"This is the best I've felt all season," Llorens said. "Getting to five innings and feeling good is a real stepping stone for the rest of the season for me. It was fun to be out there and pitch to the best of my ability."
A pain-free Llorens certainly was a pain for Hampshire (9-14).
After allowing 2 hits in the first inning, Llorens settled in and locked down on the Whip-Purs. Hampshire didn't get another hit off of Llorens, who also issued only 2 walks.
Reliever Freddie Landers, Grayslake Central's starting shortstop, entered in the sixth inning and continued what Llorens started. He did not allow another hit either.
"David competed and made the big pitches when he had to. He's a big kid with some velocity and he's got a very high ceiling," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "It was also really nice to get Freddie a couple of innings. He's such a good athlete and he's got good command around the mound.
"We're going to need both of those guys down the stretch."
The Rams were in need of some offense to go along with the top-notch pitching they were getting from Llorens and Landers. It took a while to get it.
Good pitching was contagious and Hampshire junior starter Trey Schramm, who was being scouted at the game by Eastern Illinois, was also tough to crack.
He was consistently hitting the mid-80s and kept Grayslake Central off the scoreboard until the fifth inning, when its first run came across on an error with two outs.
"I thought I battled today," said Schramm, who tweaked his leg in warm-ups and was bothered by that during the game. "I was in some tough situations early, but I got out of them and my defense played well behind me and made plays."
Once Schramm left the game in the sixth inning, the Rams were able to generate more offense. Third baseman and No. 8 hitter Anthony Fitzgerald belted a double and eventually scored on a RBI by Jay Hoffman.
Fitzgerald was part of some punch that the Rams got from the bottom of their order. Fitzgerald went 3-for-3 on the day and hit 2 doubles. No. 7 hitter Pat Burba went 2-for-3.
"Pat Burba has been through the war. You're talking about a kid who got the game-winning hit in the third-place game (at state) last year," Whalen said. "He knows what he's doing. And then, Anthony Fitzgerald showed a lot of confidence. You're going to see a lot of fastballs down there (in the lower part of the order), so do something with them, and he did."
Landers, who has been everywhere for Grayslake Central this season, drove in the Rams' final run. He drilled a single into centerfield to bring in Hoffman. It was his second hit of the day.
Landers, who had been Grayslake Central's catcher over the previous two years, started the season at second base to fill a void left by graduation. He then moved to shortstop when Whalen wanted to tweak the lineup. Landers has also been a reliable pitcher for the Rams, and his bat is always a threat in the No. 3 spot.
"I like getting to do some different things this year because it gives me a chance to show my athleticism," Landers said. "I love baseball, so I like to play everywhere. I also like to pitch and I like pitching in the pressure situations like it was today."
Good cause: A defeat to Grayslake Central on Saturday couldn't damper the enthusiasm from the Hampshire dugout about an upcoming promotion at its own field.
The Whip-Purs are excited to get the word out about their "Strike Out Cancer" fundraiser. They'll be hosting Woodstock North on Saturday (May 17) and both teams will be participating in a variety of fun activities.
For instance, all the players will be wearing special T-shirts during the game. They'll also use special bats that will be stained in colors to represent all the different colors of the various cancer causes. The bats will be raffled off after the game.
A raffle for other donated items will take place between innings and fans will also be able to bid on various donated items in a silent auction.
Among the donated items are White Sox tickets and gift cards to restaurants and various other businesses.