Ouch! Literally, and figuratively.
While shortstop Cole Daily of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin took the physical hurt of being hit by a pitch in Friday's Class 3A high school baseball state semifinal, it was Grayslake Central that took on a world of emotional hurt.
Contact information ( * required )
The Rams, in agonizing fashion, came out on the short end of a 10-inning marathon when pitcher Justin Guryn allowed the winning run to cross the plate after hitting Daily with a pitch.
The bases were loaded with Daily at the plate and that brought in second baseman Kevin Zanger from third, giving Sacred Heart-Griffin a 3-2 victory.
"That was a big play on (Daily's) part," Sacred Heart-Griffin coach Mike Eck said. "The guy (Guryn) comes inside with it, and he (Daily) gets in front of it and we win the game. That's good baseball."
The Cyclones improve to 38-3 and will now face Lemont in today's 11:30 a.m. Class 3A state championship game. Lemont defeated Metamora 8-3 in the earlier semifinal.
"It's just a rough, rough way to lose," Grayslake Central third baseman Kyle Clark said. "But I'm extremely proud of my teammates. We went down fighting, like we always do."
Grayslake Central drops to 29-11 and will face Metamora in Saturday's 9 a.m. third-place game. It will be the third time in the last six years that the Rams will be playing for third place. Grayslake Central placed third last season and in 2009.
"This is a tough one to lose. It's going to hurt today and it's going to hurt tomorrow for our guys because they're human and they care," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "It's going to hurt for a while."
The Rams had Sacred Heart-Griffin down to its last out in the bottom of the 10th, with only Zanger on base after a walk. But then Guryn, who entered in the fifth inning in relief of starter David Llorens, issued two straight walks to load the bases.
When Guryn threw two straight balls to start off Daily's at-bat, Whalen took a trip to the mound.
Was he thinking about removing Guryn?
"It never crossed my mind," Whalen said. "He's our guy, and we weren't going to bring a less battle-tested guy in there. To ask someone to come in in the middle of an inning of a state semifinal game, it never crossed my mind."
So what did Whalen tell Guryn during their meeting, before he resumed pitching to Daily?
"Not to hit the guy," Whalen said with a slight chuckle.
"But you know what, as the third-base umpire said to me, that's a lot of pressure on these kids. And, we wouldn't be here today without Justin Guryn (11-5). If you're going to go down, you're going to go down with your best guy, not somebody else. And he was the right guy to have out there at that time."
The Rams had another tense moment earlier in the game, but this one worked out in their favor.
Down to their last out in the top of the seventh inning, and trailing 2-1, they capitalized on a big-time error by the Cyclones. Second baseman Jay Hoffmann rifled a shot to third base off of Sacred Heart-Griffin starter Connor Etheridge. Third baseman Corey Mason bobbled the ball and Hoffmann beat out the throw to first, which scored Mike Stone to tie the game.
"I thought we had a chance because of that," Hoffmann said. "We're going to fight. It's the state semifinal game and we got third (place) last year and we were doing everything we could to get to the state championship game. Just fighting to the end, that's what we're about."
Grayslake Central took a 1-0 lead right out of the box when Hoffmann scored in the top of the first. He led off the game with a walk and then Clark drove him in with a single. Sacred Heart-Griffin did its damage in the fifth inning with 2 runs on 3 hits. Nolan Aherin brought in Cal Elvers with a single and Conor White crushed a triple to right field that brought in Aherin.
"I just came out and I wanted to give our team the opportunity to achieve our goal to win state," Aherin said. "I just played to the best of my ability, I played my heart out and I just made some plays."
The Rams, once again, came up just a play or two short from playing in the state title game.
"It's funny when I say we're trying to break through…to win a game at state on Friday," Whalen said. "I mean, there are guys I've coached with (and against) for 20-something years who haven't been here. And we've been here for three years…but yet we haven't been able to play in that second game (the championship game) on Saturday.
"But our goal every year is to play the last weekend of the season, and we're doing it. We always talk about results and pride and we'll muster up enough energy to come back out and play tomorrow and try to bring home another third place. Two teams win their last game of the year and we'll try to get it done. We're bringing home state hardware, it's just a question of the number on it."