A 3-game losing streak comes with a certain amount of tension for an elite baseball team like Crystal Lake South that previously had won 26 of 28.
Needing a victory Thursday on the heels of 2 losses to Huntley and Wednesday's loss to Cary-Grove in the opener of a 3-game Fox Valley Conference set, the Gators got back in the win column with a 16-6, seven-inning victory in Cary.
Crystal Lake South (27-5, 18-5) will compete on the same diamond next week as the top seed in the Class 4A Cary-Grove regional.
"This was big for us to get back on track before regionals," said leadoff hitter Griffin Bright, who went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI.
The ill-timed 3-game losing streak cost the Gators the FVC title, which Huntley claimed outright Thursday with a 2-0 victory over Prairie Ridge.
"We definitely wanted to win conference but we're still in for the playoffs," said CL South reliever Mark Paul, who tossed 3⅔ scoreless innings. "That's our goal now. Our focus is to have our minds ready for the playoffs and just be ourselves again."
CL South (27-5, 18-5) evened the series by taking advantage of a cornucopia of mistakes by Cary-Grove (23-8, 16-7). The Trojans committed 9 errors, 8 behind Texas Christian-committed sophomore pitcher Quinn Priester. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was on the mound when the Gators scored 7 runs but all were unearned. He allowed 4 hits, issued 3 walks and struck out 4 in 6 innings.
The Trojans made 6 first-inning errors, which helped the Gators jump to a 7-0 lead. Of CL South's 21 runs in 2 games against Cary-Grove, 14 have been unearned.
Is there a fix for the Trojans' defensive woes with the playoff opener against Grant looming next Thursday?
"Only hard work and determination fixes things," said 30th-year Cary-Grove coach Don Sutherland, whose career record is 599-417-13.
The Trojans scored single runs in the first and second innings ahead of a 4-run third that got them back in the game. Priester delivered the big blow, a 2-run, opposite field home run that drew C-G within 7-6.
However, Paul entered in relief and kept the Trojans off the scoreboard thereafter.
Meanwhile, the Gators added a fourth-inning run on Nick Wolski's sacrifice fly to make it 8-6. They blew the game open with an 8-run seventh that featured Michael Swiatly's 2-run single and a 2-run home run from No. 3 hitter Brian Fuentes, his fifth this season.
"In my last at-bat, I missed a fastball and I was like 'Wow,'" Fuentes said. "So in the next at-bat I tried the same approach and I hit a home run. I'm excited. My mom is here to see it."
Justin Trausch (2-for-4) enjoyed the only multhit game for Cary-Grove.
Ryan Parquette went 2-for-5 with a double and Olsen finished 2-for-4 with 2 RBI for Crystal Lake South.