Baseball: Special 'W' for Grayslake Central's Moe, Whalen
Sitting on 399 career wins, three outs away from another milestone, Grayslake Central baseball coach Troy Whalen took about three steps.
He then abruptly retreated to his dugout. Coby Moe, who needed those three outs in the worst way, stopped his coach. The Northwestern-bound righty then halted Carmel Catholic's rally.
Moe leaned on his defense for the final three outs, and when left fielder Nic Presutti squeezed the final one in shallow left-center, the 6-foot-4 pitcher breathed a large sigh of relief.
The Rams beat Carmel 2-0 in a Class 3A sectional semifinal at Grayslake Central in front of a couple of hundred fans who were treated Thursday to perfect weather for a game between perennial Lake County powers. Moe's complete-game effort, which extended his consecutive scoreless-innings streak to 29, featured 9 strikeouts and just 1 walk.
"The kid threw a good game," Carmel coach Bill Taylor said after his third-seeded Corsairs finished 18-8. "In high school baseball, if you can throw a breaking ball for a strike consistently, guys are going to have trouble, and we had trouble."
For Moe, who got swings and misses from his heavy fastball too, the victory had special meaning. And not only because it advanced the second-seeded Rams (27-7) to Saturday's 11 a.m. final against No. 4 Crystal Lake South (24-10).
A year ago, with Moe on the mound, the Rams surrendered a seventh-inning lead against Prairie Ridge in the sectional semifinals at Kerry Wood Cubs Park in Chicago, and lost 6-4.
"My whole thing throughout the off-season and this season was 'Three. Get three more outs,' " Moe said. "I was lucky enough to get those three outs today."
Whalen's 400 victories have come in just 16 seasons (average of 25 wins per year).
"We came into this season with the mind set of 27 wins," Moe said. "We needed 27 to get him 400. That was a goal for me. I wanted to get the win not just for myself and my teammates, but for Coach Whalen."
The victory had other significance for Whalen, who considers himself a historian.
"The last time we played Carmel in the postseason, we were an up-and-coming program in 2006," Whalen said. "We were just one school (Grayslake Community), and we beat them in the sectional semifinals at Mundelein. I felt that win put us on the map, and the goal all along was to stay on the map and be relevant. I think we've done a pretty good job of that."
Grayslake Central's offense did just enough against Carmel starter Dylan Paquette. Antonio Crews led off the bottom of the second with a single and scored on a passed ball. Later in the inning, leadoff hitter Presutti knocked in the second run when he legged out a slow roller to shortstop. Presutti and Marcus Maristela both finished 2-for-3 for the Rams.
"A passed ball and a squibber off the end of the bat," said Taylor, adding he couldn't have asked for more from his starting pitcher.
With Moe's pitch count approaching triple digits, Carmel rallied in the seventh. Pinch hitter Grant Cutting and Jason Hironimus (1-for-2, walk) singled to start the inning. Whalen had seen enough. He started his walk to get Moe, who shooed his coach away.
"It was probably the smartest thing I've done in 16 years of coaching," Whalen said of sticking with his starter. "It was his game to have."
Carmel leadoff man Jake Adams (3-for-4, double) singled to right field, just out of the reach of a diving Nate Twardock, for the Corsairs' third straight hit. But the relay -- Twardock to sophomore first baseman Nate Mieszkowski to catcher Daniel Rogers -- cut down a run at the plate. Two batters later, it was over.
"I was going to finish the game, regardless of my pitch count," Moe (9-2) said after his 104-pitch effort. "I could have gone 150. Not that they were going to let me. But the adrenaline was pumping."
The "CG" had special meaning too.
"I told him at the start of the postseason that he's probably got the school record for postseason wins," Whalen said of Moe. "But I said, 'The one thing you haven't done for us yet is throw a complete game.' We needed it today."
Despite defeat, Taylor appreciated the moment and the day.
"That's a game he'll remember for the rest of his life," Carmel's coach said of Moe. "That's what this is about -- making memories that you'll remember forever. You don't get that in travel baseball. You get that there."