Buffalo Grove pitcher John Lundgren had a difficult time calming himself down. Fortunately for Lundgren, his teammates knew what to say and do.
With Lundgren settling down on the hill and Buffalo Grove providing some early offense, the Bison were able to knock off Grayslake North 5-1 Saturday in the Class 4A regional final in Buffalo Grove.
It was the first regional title for the Bison (29-4-1) since 2008. It moves them into sectional play on Wednesday at Glenbrook South, where they will play Warren.
"We have a good group," Buffalo Grove coach Tim Miller said. "We knew coming into the season that we were more than capable of winning a regional. But I don't think our guys are just content on winning a regional. We have higher aspirations."
Grayslake North (22-10) made those aspirations feel a bit lofty in the top of the first.
The Knights took advantage of a struggling Lundgren and took an early 1-0 lead. Chris Kelly, who had walked, later scored on a fielder's choice by Sebastian Sancen.
Lundgren, who threw 33 pitches in the opening inning, regained his composure and stifled Grayslake North the rest of the way. Lundgren scattered 3 hits in the 6 innings pitched while striking out seven.
"It was pretty nerve-racking," Lundgren said. "When I got to the stretch, I was pretty nervous and could not find it.
Lundgren credited catcher Tyler Rundquist's ability to calm him down a bit.
"He came out to me and said 'You got this,' " Lundgren said. "I knew my team had my back, and that's what pushed me."
Miller appreciates the enthusiasm Lundren brings to the mound.
"John is a little bit of a high-energy guy," Miller said. "Sometimes he gets a little amped up. Once he settles into his game, he has pretty good stuff."
Helping Lundgren settle back into his game was a Bison team that struck for 4 runs in the bottom of the first.
Leo Rule reached on a error and John Carpinelli followed with bloop single. Riley Rundquist then drilled a ball off high off the right-center fence to score both and put Buffalo Grove up 2-1.
"One hit will start everything going for us," Riley Rundquist said. "That's the way we are. Once we are hot, we are hot."
The Bison continued applying the heat as Rio Komatani had his first of two singles, scoring Rundquist. Zach Fricke followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 and give Lundgren and the Bison some breathing room.
The next inning, Buffalo Grove increased its lead when Carpinelli double to deep right-center. That scored Rule, who had walked, all the way from first base and the Bison led 5-1.
"We knew we had to give John some runs after that first inning," Carpinelli said. "We did and it worked."
Pitching took over from there as Lundgren kept the Knights at bay while the combination of Edward Erickson and Danny Yates kept the Bison from stampeding away.
After hitting the first batter he faced, TJ Constertina got the next three Knight batters out to move the Bison forward.
Grayslake North coach Brett Hill said his team had a chance early.
"We got something going in the first inning and that's what we talked about doing," Hill said. "They then came out in the bottom of the first and hit the ball all over the yard. And their pitcher was outstanding after the first inning."
Hill was very pleased on his team's success this year which included a 22-win season and champions of the Northern Lake County Conference in the conference's inaugural year.
"You can't take anything away from this group," Hill said. "I am really proud of them and I really love this group of kids. I just didn't want to see it end for them."