Baseball: Rojahn, Elk Grove stop Glenbard West
How outstanding was the pitching of Elk Grove senior Xander Rojahn at the Class 4A Glenbard West sectional semifinals Wednesday?
"This is my favorite Xander Rojahn performance -- and I've been playing him since I was 8," said senior teammate Ryne Singsank. "I told him after that was his game. He won that game for us."
It's hard to argue. Rojahn threw a 3-hitter with 12 strikeouts as the Grenadiers edged Glenbard West 2-1 at Village Green in Glen Ellyn.
No. 9-seed Elk Grove (20-12) seeks its first sectional title since 2006 at 10 a.m. Saturday against No. 2 St. Charles North (26-10).
After one stretch of retiring 13 straight batters, Rojahn (5-2) delivered a three-pitch strikeout for the final out with runners on third and first.
"I've got my team behind me and I trust in them completely. I didn't really feel the pressure because of (Glenbard West's) home-field advantage," said Rojahn, a Xavier recruit.
"(Facing) a really good opponent, I think this is in (my) top five for sure. I'd place it around No. 3. Especially with the situation, this one is definitely one I'm going to remember for a really long time."
Glenbard West senior Joey Ciero also pitched brilliantly and improved along with Rojahn after facing early jams.
Batting as the home team, the Grenadiers scored twice in the first inning behind 3 of their 5 hits and a throwing error. The Hilltoppers countered with a run in the second but stranded a runner on second for the second straight inning.
The Grenadiers continue to extend the final postseason run for retiring coach Terry Beyna after 20 seasons.
"I hate to see us rely on Xander that heavily but big-time pitchers step up in big-time games. He got better as the game went on. I've seen more than that (from him)," Beyna said.
"A lot of credit to their pitcher. (Ciero) kept us off balance. I sure would have like to add on a couple of runs. He kept them right there."
The No. 12 Hilltoppers (19-12), who started eight seniors, reached sectionals for the first time since 2011.
Ciero fanned three and retired the last seven, starting with a double play to end the fourth. With one out in the seventh, senior Connor Brady doubled for the game's only extra-base hit and went to third on a wild pitch before No. 8 hitter Trevor King walked.
"These seniors kind of helped our program move towards another level. We were one hit away a couple of times from tying it or taking the lead. Kudos to (Rojahn) for throwing well. We just fell a little short, that's all," Glenbard West coach Andy Schultz said.
"Two really good pitchers throwing well in the playoffs. Their guy was good, he was excellent, but Joey I thought matched him pitch for pitch."
Elk Grove senior No. 2 hitter Josh Periaswamy continued his hot hitting with a solid one-out single in the first. Given the green light, he then stole second.
The 6-foot-8 Singsank then showed his speed. On an infield dribbler, Singsank beat Ciero's throw that went down the right-field line, allowing Periaswamy to score and Singsank to reach third. Junior Zach Schwartz singled home Singsank.
"A lot of people are actually surprised with how fast I am. I've got some pretty long legs, long strides," Singsank said.
"That was the first inning so we still had a lot of baseball to play. Looking back on it now, it definitely played a huge role."
In the Hilltoppers' second senior Tommy Bleker was hit by a pitch and Brady reached on a force. Brady moved to third on Brett Potter's single and scored on King's sacrifice fly.
This was the final game for retiring Glenbard West pitching coach Rick "Slick" Letmanski.
"He's helped me so much and I utilized some of that (knowledge) today," said Ciero, who will pitch at Wartburg College. "It's helped me become a much better pitcher than I ever could have dreamed of being."