Chase Slota's razor-sharp effort included working the edges meticulously and artfully.
When you're on display, you got to be at your best. So, Slota wasn't about to get wild.
"I'm working on it," the Lakes junior baseball player said with a smile of his thin, blond beard. "I had to trim it up for prom (last weekend). I'm going to grow it out again."
At 6 feet 6 and 220 pounds, and with a fastball that he says hit 91 mph last week, Slota boasts more than facial hair that has potential.
The right-hander dominated host Wauconda on Wednesday, throwing a complete-game 2-hitter, as Lakes won 6-0 to remain tied for first place in the North Suburban Prairie Division.
Slota (5-1) struck out seven and didn't walk a batter.
"He was in command," Wauconda coach Bill Sliker said. "He had command of all of his pitches. He had a good fastball. He's a good pitcher."
Lakes, which started the season 0-5, improved to 15-10 and 8-2 in the NSC Prairie. The Eagles share first place in the division with Grant and Vernon Hills. While Lakes finishes up division play next week with two games against Antioch, Grant and Vernon Hills will play each other twice. Lakes is seeking its first NSC Prairie title since 2008.
"I think we have a solid chance," Eagles senior catcher Joe Dahlke said. "This team has clicked better than any team I've been on so far. We definitely have something going for us."
"Our pitching has really carried us," coach Ray Gialo said.
Specifically, Slota and Vince Rotunno have set the tone at the top of Lakes' rotation. After Rotunno turned in a quality start Tuesday against Wauconda, allowing just 2 runs in 6⅓ innings, Slota followed with an even more impressive outing. He was coming a 1-hitter against Grant in which he said his fastball topped out at 91 mph.
He typically throws in the mid-upper-80s.
"He was great," Gialo said. "The one thing he's done well, especially these last couple of outings, is he just gets on the mound and he goes. Nothing fazes him. If a call doesn't go his way, if he gives up a hit or he misses a pitch, it doesn't matter. He just gets the ball back and goes right back to work."
Using a changeup and sometimes a curveball to complement his heat, Slota consistently got ahead in the count. Only one hitter for Wauconda (7-16, 5-5) worked the count full.
"He was getting ahead with the fastball, and that's obviously his pitch," Sliker said. "You don't want to let too many of them go by. Otherwise, he's going to really dominate."
"I try getting ahead in the count every time and let them put it in play," Slota said. "They did and we got them out."
Wauconda lefty starter Kyle Harmon matched Slota pitch for pitch early on, but Lakes manufactured the only run it needed in the second inning. Ethan Sage drew a one-out walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Matt Putman's groundout. Bill Morris then singled into right field, scoring Sage.
A walk, 2 errors and 2 wild pitches allowed Lakes to score a pair of unearned runs off Harmon in the fourth. Putman's sacrifice fly scored courtesy runner Ben Haviland, who stole second and raced to third on a throwing error by the catcher.
"You can't give a pitcher like (Slota) 2-3 runs," Sliker said. "(Harmon) was keeping the ball down, and then he lost his control just a little bit."
Brian Gross (double) and Joe Sisk (RBI single) both went 2-for-4 for Lakes.
The only hits Slota allowed were a two-out single to Brian Malisheski in the third and one-out base hit to Joey Lovelle in the fourth. Slota retired the last 10 batters he faced.
"I love catching Chase," said Dahlke, whose 2-run single capped the Eagles' 3-run fifth. "Just with the faster pitching, it's so much easier to see. I've always loved catching a faster kid. Chase always brings it."
On and off the mound, apparently.