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updated: 5/17/2014 8:32 PM

Once again, Grayslake Central's a hit

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Of course, the groundball off the bat of Grayslake Central's Anthony Fitzgerald hit the heel of teammate Pat Burba, who was running to second base.

During its two-day, two-game series with Grayslake North, Grayslake Central had nine batters get hit by pitched baseballs. So getting pegged by a batted ball wasn't going to faze the Rams.

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At least Freddie Landers was able to joke about it after visiting Grayslake Central won 15-4 Saturday morning. Rams coach Troy Whalen says Landers and Sam Nozicka each have been hit close to 20 times this season.

"We've joked that the hit batsman has been our best offensive weapon all year," Whalen said.

Landers, Grayslake Central's senior shortstop who graduates today, got hit in his final plate appearance Friday and then got plunked twice Saturday.

"When we play North, we have some scrappy battles," Landers said with a smile. "They don't seem to like me very much."

Whalen loved how Landers responded after getting hit in the first inning Saturday. In the second inning, Landers hit an Andrew Mikusa pitch to deep right-center field and pulled into second base with a double. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Landers finished 2-for-3 with 2 RBI, getting hit by a pitch again in the sixth -- with the bases loaded, no less.

"(Friday) I was kind of worried because I'm just getting over a (left) rib injury," said Landers, a right-handed hitter who's planning to play shortstop for the College of Lake County. "When the ball came in on me, it hit me just below."

Grayslake Central's effort Saturday gave the Rams their sixth 20-win season in a row. They're 20-9 and 12-5 in the Fox Valley Conference, alone in first place in the FVC Fox with two division games left: home Monday against Woodstock North and at Woodstock North on Wednesday.

Grayslake North, which fell victim to a 7-run fourth inning after tying the score at 4-4 with a single run in the bottom of the third, fell to 11-17 and 5-10 in the FVC Fox.

"Grayslake Central came ready to play, and they played well," Knights coach Andy Strahan said after his team committed 3 errors. "The game is about opportunities. They seized the opportunity, and we missed our chance when we had opportunities."

Matt Loeffl's RBI fielder's choice snapped a 3-3 tie in the Grayslake Central fourth. Then after Mike Stone got hit to load the bases, ending Mikusa's stint on the mound, Burba (3-for-4, 2 RBI) greeted reliever Alex Alvarez with an RBI single. Fitzgerald followed with a double into left-center, scoring 3 runs.

"I kind of struggled the first at-bat (in the first inning)," Fitzgerald said. "I took a pitch right down the middle for strike three. I really felt that I needed to do well that at-bat. Not that you don't feel like that every at-bat. I just got a nice pitch, outer half of the plate and was able to pull it."

It was Fitzgerald's at-bat in the third inning, on a hit-and-run, when his groundball to the right side hit Burba. Technically, Fitzgerald (3-for-4) got credit with a base hit.

"I was not aware of that," Fitzgerald said. "So, 3-for-4. That's better than I thought."

Grayslake Central also got a 2-run double from Kyle Clark and an RBI single from Nozicka. Lefty David Llorens started and went 3 innings, allowing 4 runs (3 earned). Russ Lundius pitched 3 scoreless innings in relief.

Grayslake Central scored 3 unearned runs off Mikusa in the first, after the first two batters were retired. Grayslake North countered with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning, also after two were out. The Knights got an RBI double from JP Zalewski (2-for-4) and a run-scoring single from Ryan Gross.

Grayslake North's Merrick Gentile went 3-for-4.

After the Rams' 7-run fourth, the visitors were in charge for good.

"Fitz's hit was huge," Whalen said of Fitzgerald's bases-clearing double. "We always joke that whoever is the player of the game, the next game is the player's bobblehead day. So Monday is going to be Anthony Fitzgerald bobblehead day."

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