In a season full of special moments, this one ranks right up there.
Chicago Christian baseball coach Eric Brauer has had a blast guiding his team through what is turning out to be the best season in school history.
The Class 2A Knights are now 33-1, and had reeled off 32 straight wins (32-0) before suffering their first loss this week (to perennial Class 4A state power Lockport).
Win No. 33 came at Grayslake Central on Saturday, a 6-0 shutout of the host Rams, extra special for Brauer because he graduated from the school. Brauer was a 12-sport athlete and a baseball and basketball star at Grayslake. He graduated in 2000.
"He wanted to win really badly," Chicago Christian pitcher Tyler Edgar said of the 35-year-old Brauer, who was coaching at his alma mater for the first time in his 12-year coaching career. "We gave him the game ball after the game and said, 'This one is for you, Coach.' "
Edgar, now 8-0 , pitched the bulk of the game for the Knights, keeping Grayslake Central off the scoreboard for the final five innings.
"I'm pretty excited to be back," Brauer said. "(Grayslake Central coach) Troy (Whalen) has done a great job with the program and I knew we'd get a quality game from a quality team.
"I had some friends who came to the game and I've got some family here. I wanted us to make a good showing coming up here."
The Knights did just that by keeping Grayslake Central out of sync offensively. The host Rams managed just 2 hits on the game, singles by Tony Neuman and Nic Presutti.
Grayslake Central sophomore starting pitcher Coby Moe kept Chicago Christian nearly just as quiet during his stint. He gave up 5 hits but only 1 run through the first six innings. But after pitching late in Grayslake Central's win over Lakes on Friday night, Moe had to leave the game against Chicago Christian when he reached the pitch-count limit mandated by the IHSA, a new rule this season.
Chicago Christian scored 5 of its 6 runs in the seventh inning right after Moe left.
"The limit (for Moe) was 90 pitches today, but I do feel like I could have kept going," said Moe, who probably would have been kept in the game under the old rules. "My velocity kind of dropped toward the end. I was kind of tired because I've pitched a lot this week. But I think I could have (finished the game).
"I think the pitch-count rule has been good for pitchers to not get overused. But it can be frustrating too. If you're feeling good and you're in a groove it's frustrating that you can't keep going."
Chicago Christian's decisive run in the seventh inning began with two straight walks off of reliever Ray Bradley. Then another reliever for the Rams, Justin Wold, gave up 2 straight hits to Mark Schaaf and Matt McCarthy before hitting Tommy Moran with a pitch. Before Wold logged the first out of the seventh inning, the Knights had scored 3 runs.
Jacob Bulthuis rounded out the seventh-inning scoring for Chicago Christian with a 1-out single that brought in McCarthy and Moran. Wold then closed the inning for Grayslake Central with 2 straight strikeouts.
"It was a good game for six innings," said Whalen, whose team drops to 17-12 on the season. "They are a legit 33-1 for a reason. They've got a nice team. Coming off of an emotional win last night at Lakes, I think we came in a little flat today. That's not to take anything away from what they did. They made plays, they made the pitches when they had to. I wish our approach at the plate was better. We chased a lot of balls out of the zone.
"But when you're a young team like we are, you're going to be a little inconsistent. I mean, 1-0 going into the seventh inning is still a really good high school game."