Baseball: Nazareth denies Grayslake Central in 3A championship game

Grayslake Central's first trip to the Class 3A state championship game was a disappointment only in the final score. The Rams felt short, losing to Nazareth Academy 7-2 Saturday at Duly Stadium in Joliet.

It was the second consecutive Class 3A title for Nazareth (34-6). The Roadrunners only allowed five runs in their six tournament games.

The second-place finish, which came in front of a large and boisterous fan group that made the 90-minute trek from Grayslake, was the highest finish in school history.

"I can't say enough about the Ram Nation that traveled," said Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen, whose teams had finished third twice and fourth on two other occasions.

"Today wasn't our day. It was our season, but today just want our day. That's baseball. The bus ride home will still be OK. These are a great group of kids. To end the season here is great."

The loss ended a record-setting season for the Rams (33-8).

Besides being the first team to advance to the state finals, this Grayslake Central team set a school-record for wins in a season. They also were undefeated in Northern Lake County play and also had a 20-game win streak during the regular season.

"It still has sunken yet," said Adam Fitzgerald, who would have two hits and an RBI. "We got second in state. I still feel like I am going to wake up and we are 12 years old and we are at Cooperstown playing together, I just loved playing with these guys."

The Rams had their chances. They left 10 runners on base and had three others erased on base running gaffes. They also walked eight batters and allowed 10 hits.

"We knew we were going to have to play well," Whalen said. "And get some breaks. I don't think we did either. We battled every inning and we were just missing that one hit. But as you can see, there was no quit. "

Grayslake Central had an opportunity to get on the board in the first two innings.

Jack Gerbasi was hit by a pitch, stole second and went to third on Luke Mudd's infield single. But the threat ended on a strikeout and failed double steal attempt on the same pitch.

In the second, the Rams had runners on first and second with two outs. But Nazareth pitcher Finn O'Meara picked off a runner to end that threat.

It then got even worse for the Rams.

After two quick outs, the Roadrunners parlayed five walks, a single and a wild pitch as Nazareth surged ahead 3-0.

Grayslake had another opportunity to get back into the game in the fourth. Thanks to a pair of walks, they had runners on first and second with one out.

Cal Hanson then drilled a laser beam that appeared to be headed toward the gap in left center, However, Nazareth shortstop Copper Malamazian made a tremendous leaping catch. To add to it, Malamazian fired to first for a double play.

The Roadrunners were sparked by that play. They struck for three more runs thanks to a triple, walk, double and a single to make it 6-0.

The Rams tried to make things interesting after that.

In the fifth, Sam Cooper led off the inning with a double. He was then able to score on Fitzgerald's single. However, the Rams left two runners on in that inning.

In the next frame, Grayslake Central was able to push across another run. Cooper's fielder's choice scored Riley Policht, who had singled to lead off. Again the inning ended with a disappointment as the Rams left the bases full.

Nazareth ended the scoring on a home run by David Cox.

"It just didn't work out in our favor," Gerbasi said. "The balls weren't falling for us. There was no way we were going to give up until the end. I got to play with my best friends. It was really surreal for all of us."

Policht said that despite the second-place finish, it will be a season that he and his teammates will be proud of forever.

"It was crazy," Policht said, "It was a roller-coaster ride to say the least. We started out the season so bad. We were told that we were the team that would break the streak of regional championships. To just be here in the state championship is a dream that we have had since we were eight."

  Nazareth players celebrate their 7-2 victory over Grayslake Central during the Class 3A state championship baseball game in Joliet Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
  Grayslake Central's Luke Mudd holds the Rams' second place trophy following the Class 3A state championship baseball game in Joliet Saturday. Nazareth won the game 7-2. Joe Lewnard/
  Grayslake Central's Sam Cooper is greeted by teammates in the dugout after scoring during the fifth inning of the Class 3A state championship baseball game against Nazareth Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
  Grayslake Central second baseman Garrett Guenther makes the relay throw on a double play as Nazareth's Jaden Fauske slides into the bag during the Class 3A state championship baseball game in Joliet Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
  Nazareth pitcher Finn O'Meara delivers a pitch during the Class 3A state championship baseball game in Joliet Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
  Grayslake Central starter Chris Rogers delivers a pitch to a Nazareth batter during the Class 3A state championship baseball game in Joliet Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.