Grayslake Central on the scent of No. 1 seed
Good hitting sometimes comes with bad smells.
Grayslake Central seniors Jon Gurchak and Kristian Meehan have been hitting the cover off the baseball lately, and they don't want that to change.
So Meehan, who had 6 RBI in a game last week and 3 in a win over Johnsburg on Wednesday in which he slammed a home run for the second straight game, has superstitiously decided not to change anything about his uniform. Including its cleanliness.
"I'll admit, I didn't wash my uniform last night (after hitting a 420-foot home run to dead centerfield on Tuesday against Crystal Lake Central), and I probably won't wash it tonight," Meehan chuckled in the wake of his 2-run shot against Johnsburg. "When you're trying (to keep a streak going), you do things like that, like not washing your clothes."
Gurchak, who was standing right next to Meehan at the time, laughed as he playfully shot down his teammate's explanation.
"Hey, that's just you," Gurchak said to Meehan. "I'll wash my uniform. But I do other stuff the same way every game. I am also very superstitious right now. You just kind of stick with everything you're doing. You don't want to kill any of the mojo you've got going."
Gurchak's mojo has been stuck in hyperdrive lately.
"I've never seen anything like what Jon did against Round Lake on Monday," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "It was pretty special."
Gurchak singlehandedly rolled up an astounding 10 RBI against Round Lake. His personal offensive barrage included a grand slam home run, another home run, a double and a single, all of which brought in runs.
"You've got to give credit to the guys in front of me, because I can't get the opportunities if I can't get up to the plate," said Gurchak, who added another 5 RBI to his bottom line against Johnsburg. "I have gotten more opportunities lately and I've felt really good. As the season has gone on, I'm starting to find the sweet spot a lot better and I'm hitting the ball a lot better.
"I've just tried (to go into each at-bat) with a blank mind. You don't want to jinx it. If you try to swing for the fences, you're going to fly out and not do too well."
Gurchak might not be swinging for the fences on purpose, but he's been clearing them with plenty of room to spare. One of his home runs against Round Lake sailed into dead centerfield and not only cleared the fence, but also cleared a storage shed behind it. The ball then bounced into the backyard of a nearby house.
"Right away, you know when you get the sweet spot just right," Gurchak said. "That (shot over the shed) is definitely (Gurchak's longest home run for distance in his career). It was a great game. I think the last time I had a big game like that was when I had 3 home runs against Huntley my freshman year. But even that was nothing like (having 10 RBI in one game)."
"That was big," Meehan added in agreement. "Getting 10 (RBI in one game) is really hard to do."
Likewise, Meehan, who recently made a key tweak to his swing, might find it hard to do the unwashed uniform thing for too much longer. So he's considering some compromises.
"Maybe I can just use some (Febreeze)," Meehan laughed. "I don't know, I'll think of something."
Then again, if Meehan keeps hitting home runs…
"I'm thinking even if I don't wash my uniform, my teammates won't mind too much being around me," Meehan said.
Hitters often grimace when they see one of Mark Ash's pitches coming.
But someday, the Grayslake Central pitcher hopes to put smiles on the faces of everyone he comes across.
Ash wants to be a dentist someday, which is part of the reason he signed on last week to pitch for the Winona State baseball team next year. Winona State is known for its pre-dental program.
"It's a good fit for him academically and for baseball," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said of his ace. "Winona State is also nationally ranked so it's a great baseball program. They will really push him and he'll get even better."
Ash has been pretty darn good already.
He is 6-3 and has 2 saves for the Rams, who rank as one of the best Class 3A teams in the northern suburbs.
Talk about good timing.
Grayslake Central picked a great time to win 13 games in a row. The 19-5 Rams will head into Monday's sectional seeding meeting on a high.
"I think we've definitely put ourselves in position to be considered for a No. 1 seed," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said. "That's been a goal of ours. We've never won 13 games in a row since I've been here so we're playing really well and we're winning in different ways. We've won some big games and we've also won five extra-inning games. Our kids are finding a way to get it done."
But for as well as the Rams have been playing lately, Whalen says the No. 1 seed won't just drop in their laps. He expects stiff competition from St. Viator, which boasts a Division I pitcher and plays in the highly respected East Suburban Catholic Conference. Lake Forest, Notre Dame, Lakes, Antioch and Grayslake North will also be in the running for some of the top seeds.
"There are 20 teams in our sectional and I feel like the top eight or nine teams are all tough draws," Whalen said. "You just want to get one of the top four seeds because you might get to play the winner of a play-in game in the first-round.
"That would be a favorable matchup, but then again, this is baseball and all it takes is one hot pitcher or a ducksnort and you could lose 1-0."
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