Baseball: Buffalo Grove patiently grabs MSL title
It had been a long journey for Buffalo Grove to get to the Mid Suburban League baseball championship game. So when the Bison were delayed Thursday afternoon because of advanced placement testing at Buffalo Grove, the Bison just took it in stride.
After a 45-minute delay, Buffalo Grove made sure the journey had a successful ending as the Bison rallied for a 6-2 victory over host Barrington.
It was the first MSL title appearance and championship for Buffalo Grove (25-5) since 1992.
"I'm not going to worry about what happened in the past," Buffalo Grove coach Tim Miller said. "We had some guys who got out of their AP tests late. Then our bus driver tried to take us a different route and that backfired big time. It was a little bit of an adventure, but we got here and it was all worth it."
The journey was especially satisfying for Buffalo Grove catcher Carter Gledhill.
The junior tore his ACL during Week 1 of the football season last year and had surgery last November. He worked diligently on his rehab and was able to get back on the field, and on Thursday his two-out single in the fifth drove in a pair of runs to give the Bison the lead for good.
"I was told by a lot of people that I was crazy to go back this early," said Gledhill, whose season went so well that he was named to the MSL all-conference team. "It is fantastic. I love this team. I would not trade this for anything to be with these guys and win a conference championship."
Buffalo Grove grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third. Tyler Concialdi, who was inserted in the lineup at the last minute by Miller, made his coach look good. Concialdi reached base twice on dropped third strikes and scored both times, the first time on Riley Rundquist's double to center.
"That was a big hit for us," Rundquist said. "It got us started off and got us a lead. They came back. But we were swinging that bats well. We were awake."
Barrington (19-7-2), which has now lost 4 of the last 5 championships game it has been in, forged ahead in the bottom of the fourth.
Clark Elliott walked and went to third on David Mitchell's double down the left field line to put runners on second and third. After a strikeout, Nick Bogaerts singled up the middle to drive in both runners to make it 2-1 with Bogaerts moving up to second on the late throw home.
Barrington the had an opportunity to add on to its lead. Jake Meyer singled sharply to right with two out. But Bogaerts was thrown out at the plate by a perfect throw by right fielder Rio Kometani and a good tag by Gledhill.
Buffalo Grove went ahead for good in their next at bat, parlaying some Barrington misplays and Gledhill's hit into 3 runs.
Concialdi reached for the second time on a drop third strike. After stealing second with one out, he then deftly avoided a tag at third on a groundball to short.
With runners on the corners, Rundquist delivered a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2. A walk and a hit batter loaded the bases before Gledhill drove a shot to right, driving in 2 runs to make it 4-2.
"I am still in shock about it," Gledhill said. "Coach Miller told he before the at-bat that I was out here for a reason, and just compete. That is something that is going to stay with me forever."
Miller said his team has been consistently taking advantage of opponents' miscues.
"I think our team does a good job of taking advantage of other team's mistakes," Miller said. "We try to play smart, fundamental baseball."
Buffalo added insurance runs in each of the next two innings.
Zach Fricke, who pitched all 7 innings for the Bison, helped his cause with an RBI double, scoring Concialdi, who had singled. They pushed another run across in the seventh when they loaded the bases and Matt Brunelli drove home the run on a fielder's choice.
"I was so excited going into the game," Fricke said. "This is least amount of strikeouts (3) that I have ever had, so I just counted on my defense. I didn't have my best stuff, but our defense and our hitting carried us through."
Barrington coach Pat Wire said his team will learn from the loss.
"You have to be able to capitalize on mistakes, and they did that," Wire said. "That's the name of the game. It was a good playoff atmosphere and that should help us in the state playoffs."
Miller, whose team is seeded No. 1 in the St. Viator sectional which begins next week, is always ready to go.
"I feel that our kids, once we step on the field, they are always ready to compete," Miller said. "We have a competitive group and they are great group of kids who are highly motivated and hungry."