As he walked toward the parking lot, Johnsburg pitcher Collin Ridout avoided a wipeout. He stopped and deftly hopped a fence in a single bound to grant an interview request.
It might have been his second-best leap in his baseball cleats Thursday.
And, in truth, the display of athleticism wasn't surprising considering what the senior right-hander did on Grayslake Central's diamond.
Ridout struck out 10 Lakes batters, scattered 4 singles and fielded his position brilliantly, as the third-seeded Skyhawks won the Class 3A regional semifinal 3-0 to earn a berth in Saturday's title game. Johnsburg (20-13) will play top-seeded Grayslake Central (25-10) at 11 a.m.
Ridout outdueled fellow hard-throwing ace Chase Slota, as Lakes, which started the season 0-5, finished 19-13.
"It's a tough way to lose, especially when you got a guy that throws a pretty good game like Chase did," Eagles coach Ray Gialo said. "But (Johnsburg) did the little things well, and we didn't. That's the difference."
Ridout threw a high-80-mph fastball and, in the second inning, showed off his arm strength in a different way. With a runner on first and one out after an error, Lakes' Joe Dahlke tapped a bunt. Ridout sprinted off the mound, picked the ball up with his right hand, leapt and threw to second to force Lakes' base runner, who didn't even slide.
The next batter grounded out, and the inning was over.
"I was surprised he (threw the ball) too (on Dahlke's bunt)," Gialo said. "(Ridout) is a terrific athlete, and we knew that coming in. To watch him make that play ... what are you going to do? The pitcher bounces off the mound, throws the ball while jumping in the air and puts it right on the base. I mean, maybe it's not your day."
Skyhawks coach Sam Lesniak has seen Ridout have these days.
"On the mound, he's made some phenomenal plays -- some of the best plays that I've seen on bunts," Lesniak said. "That play saved a run that inning. That took the air right out of them."
The play seemed to make Ridout's day -- that, and the victory that came with it.
"I wanted to play quarterback freshman-sophomore year," Ridout said. "I never got the chance to play football because I played soccer instead. But quarterback's my thing. I know it (smiling). It was always my thing growing up. It just never worked out."
Nothing worked for Lakes, even when Ridout experienced his only bout of wildness. In the Lakes fifth, after Johnsburg scored an unearned run off Slota in the fourth to take a 1-0 lead, Bill Morris singled into left field to break up Ridout's no-hitter. After a fly out, back-to-back walks loaded the bases for lefty-hitting Joe Sisk.
But Ridout beared down, striking out Lakes' No. 3 hitter on three pitches.
Still trailing 1-0 in its half of the sixth, Lakes got another rally going when Bryan Gross reached on an infield single and was bunted to second by Justin Blasinski. Matt Nordlund then hit a ball in the hole. Shortstop Alec Graef dove to keep the ball in the infield and hold pinch runner Tyler Leon at third.
"Graef, that's selling out," Ridout said. "When you see a teammate do that, it really gives you confidence in your defense. You're able to throw the ball where you want because you trust your defense."
Ridout then fielded Dahlke's bunt and threw to catcher BJ Garcia, who applied the tag on Leon for the second out. A popout ended the Lakes threat.
Then in the Johnsburg seventh, after Slota (8 hits allowed, 7 strikeouts) loaded the bases with one out, Graef delivered a 2-run single for a pair of insurance runs.
Ridout (11-0) struck out the side in the third (all looking) and again in the seventh (all swinging). He's headed to Heartland Community College in Bloomington, where the left-handed hitter plans to play shortstop and pitch.
"He was throwing pretty hard," said Lakes leadoff hitter Justin Corona, who was 1-for-3 with a walk. "He set (the curveball) up nicely with the fastball. We gunned it and it was coming in high-80s. And then he threw a good changeup that sunk low. He was pretty tough to hit."