Baseball: Despite weather, Grayslake Central enjoys Illinois homecoming
It wasn't exactly Florida weather, but Grayslake Central will take it.
Especially since the conditions came with a victory.
Thursday was the first game for the Rams since returning from a trip to Orlando, and it was the same for their opponent, visiting Grayslake North.
And with the teams trading temps in the 80s and 90s in Orlando for around 50 degrees with a biting wind locally (albeit under sunny skies), it was the hosts who came away with a big Northern Lake County Conference win.
Grayslake Central prevailed in the 'return to Illinois' contest, scoring an 11-0, 4 1/2 inning triumph.
Thursday's tilt was actually supposed to be the finale of a 3-game series between the two teams, but Mother Nature intervened Tuesday and Wednesday, with those two games being rescheduled for later on in the season due to inclement weather.
"Definitely a lot colder here," said Rams senior Sam Cooper. "When we were in Florida it was high 80s all the time, the sun was bearing down and there wasn't much wind."
"Here today you had the wind howling in from left field, high 40s, just a different experience."
Still, despite the elements, Central pounded out 8 hits in just 4 innings.
"I think we hit our best that we have all year," said Cooper. "Our approach (at the plate) today was really good."
Rams coach Troy Whalen agreed, saying that "you wouldn't know it, but coming into this game we were hitting about .210 as a team. I think the talent is there, and I liked our approach today. The kids followed the plan and then they executed the plan."
"We let the ball get deep and we took a lot of baseballs the other way."
Shortstop Jacob Donohue had a double and a single for Grayslake North, but otherwise the Knights couldn't get much going against Central starter Chris Rogers.
North starter Wyatt Dziekan threw the ball well but was victimized by more than a couple misplays in the field.
"We were flat from the get-go," said Knights coach Eric Lopez. "We know that we're better than we showed on the field today, but we didn't make the routine plays, the fundamental plays, and when you don't make the routine plays you're going to win very few ballgames."
"I think though that a lot of the things that went wrong today are things we can control."
Central plated two runs in the first with Adam Fitzgerald and Rogers getting the runs batted in.
They scored three more times in the second with the big hit coming off the bat of Jack Gerbasi, then tallied two additional runs in the third.
The Rams broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth by scoring four runs, as Gerbasi opened the floodgates with a leadoff double, followed by a single from Cooper and a couple of walks and Knights errors.
Rogers struck out 6 in 4 innings of work.
"He's a D1 pitcher," said Whalen of Rogers, "and he's going to battle. He did a nice job today."
Riley Lam and Cameron Bates each had base knocks for North, while right fielder Fitzgerald led the winners with 3 RBI.
Central's Garrett Guenther stroked 2 doubles, while teammate Cam Marson, a senior catcher, battled the wind and sun to make a couple of terrific catches in foul territory.
"It was pretty difficult (due to the elements)," said Marson of his outstanding plays, "but we practice that in drills every day.
"When game time comes, you've got to make the play."