Baseball: Dorchies' gem leads Cary-Grove past Prairie Ridge to regional title
Ethan Dorchies brought his A-game to Saturday's Class 3A Cary-Grove Regional championship against rival Prairie Ridge.
The Cary-Grove junior right-hander, who is committed to the University of Illinois-Chicago tossed a complete-game, 12-strikeout, 1-0 shutout as the No. 1 seed Trojans survived the No. 8 Wolves' upset bid, en route to an absolutely nail-biting regional crown.
It was the second time this season Dorchies (9-1) bested Prairie Ridge, the first time being a 2-1 victory on April 24.
"I just approached this game with confidence, trying to remember that previous game, what weaknesses I saw," Dorchies said. "And in this game, maybe a few of their guys weren't able to handle certain pitches, so I'd recall that from at-bat to at-bat."
"I was trying to spot the ball different places, and I felt like my splitter was really getting good movement today. Just anything to keep their hitters guessing, really."
Dorchies was so locked in at one point, he struck out seven consecutive batters in parts of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
That included an extremely rare four-strikeout top of the fifth, after a dropped third strike gave the Wolves one of just four baserunners he allowed all game.
P-R also got a single from cleanup hitter Mason McKim in the second, reached on leadoff hitter Brennan Coyle's hit-by-pitch in the 3rd, and notched a two-out single in the sixth courtesy of Tyler Vasey.
But none of those runners made it past second base.
"I didn't really sleep at all last night," Trojans coach Ryan Passaglia said. "I thought this was exactly how this game was going to go. Forget that Prairie Ridge was a No. 8 seed. They came ready to play."
The game's lone run came in the bottom of the fourth. Trojans shortstop Dane Schuster was hit by the first pitch of the inning. Two batters later, cleanup hitter Nathan Crick singled, creating a first and third situation with one out.
First baseman Brendan Carter's sacrifice fly scored Schuster, giving Dorchies all the support he needed.
"They were pounding the outer half of the plate in my first-at bat," Carter said. "So I was looking for the ball on the outer half, got it there, and just tried to get the ball in the air."
The throw to the plate was cut off by Wolves first baseman McKim, who turned and relayed the toss to catcher Vic Flores, but Schuster's slide beat the tag by an eyelash.
Cary-Grove (26-9) advances to face either Lake Forest or Antioch in a Class 3A Grayslake Central Sectional semifinal on Wednesday, May 31 at 4 p.m.
Prairie Ridge southpaw sophomore starting pitcher Karson Stiefer matched Dorchies' stellar effort most of the way, taking the tough-luck loss.
Stiefer allowed one run and just three singles, with one walk and one hit batsman.
"My teammates were so supportive after the game," Stiefer said. "They told me I pitched out of my mind. I couldn't be more happy with how well they played in the field behind me. It's just ... tough, real tough."
Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro echoed Stiefer's thoughts.
"All you can ever ask for as a coach in the postseason is for your guys to compete their hardest and to give us a chance to win," Pecoraro said. "And they did both today. Couldn't be more proud of their effort despite the outcome.
"We had runners in scoring position three different times, and couldn't finish, but that's a credit to Dorchies and their team. In hindsight, maybe I could've tried to force the issue, or tried stealing third or something. Just another epic battle between our two schools. Best of luck to the Trojans in the next round."
The Trojans feel their key to potential success in that next round is simple.
"We don't look at these postseason situations as pressure," Passaglia said. "We view it as excitement.
"Our mantra all year has been to play clean. When we do that, it makes every run we score that much more valuable. That needs to continue for us to keep advancing. Limit errors and make sure we don't make mental mistakes. We'll see where this journey leads us."