It's report card season and the baseball players at Grayslake Central are getting grades outside of the classroom, too.
The top-seeded Rams put together an impressive performance Wednesday afternoon in steamrolling No. 4 Antioch 11-0 in the semifinals of the Class 3A Grayslake Central regional. At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Grayslake Central (25-10) will host the winner of today's semifinal between No. 2 Lakes and No. 3 Johnsburg.
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With high marks on offense, defense and on the mound, was it an A-plus performance by the Rams, who were up 8-0 after two innings, allowed only 1 Antioch hit and needed only five innings to finish the job?
"No, no, not an A-plus," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said with a big grin. "We're not going to give them an A-plus, even though it's finals week. I'm a hard grader on the curve.
"We can play even better, and we'll have to as we go along. But today was definitely an A-day. We've talked about, when you get to the postseason, it's hard to win a game when you play your C-game or your B-game. You've got to play A-games every day in the postseason. I thought we were pretty good today. We had great at-bats, we were patient. We got bunts down. Our pitchers did a nice job. It was a good day."
It was an especially good day for senior right fielder Justin Dooley, the Rams' No. 9 hitter.
In fact, after Dooley smacked a double in the third inning, Whalen yelled from his post in the third-base coaching box, "It's Dooley Day!"
It was Dooley's second straight hit. The first one, a perfect bunt, fueled a 6-run second inning and the double was part of a 3-run third inning. He wound up scoring twice in the game.
"I kind of struggled earlier in the season, striking out way too much and not really seeing the ball well," Dooley said. "In the postseason, it's time to turn that around and step it up. I want to keep playing the way I am right now."
Starting pitcher Justin Guryn could easily say the same thing. He pitched only three full innings, but by then already had the game firmly in his control.
Guryn (8-3) gave up just 1 hit while striking out five Antioch batters. He also didn't issue a single walk.
"My plan was just to act as if it was a regular game," Guryn said. "I didn't want to overthink it.
"It was obviously a relief for us to get all those runs, especially early. And my fastball was just on today, I guess."
Relievers Russell Lundius and Kyle Henke followed Guryn's lead and were stingy with the hits as well. Neither allowed an Antioch hit.
The Sequoits (11-22) got their only hit from left fielder Nick Muskat in the first inning.
"We just couldn't string at-bats together," Antioch senior catcher Adam Harvey said. "We didn't get to take batting practice (on Tuesday) because of the rain, maybe that was part of it. I don't know, we just had a hard time."
Antioch also had a hard time with what head coach Paul Petty calls the "freebies," stats such as errors and walks. The Rams, who totaled just 6 hits on the day, were able to take advantage of 7 walks and 4 Antioch errors.
"They scored five of their runs when the ball never even left the infield," Petty said of Grayslake Central. "Walks, errors and then a couple of bad decisions, they all had a part in it.
"We went into it thinking that all the pressure was on the No. 1 seed. I thought we would play loose. I was a little surprised that we didn't."