For Lakes, coming up short against Grayslake Central time and time again was beginning to hurt.
Maybe it didn’t hurt as much as slamming into the right field fence face first, which is what Lakes outfielder John O’Connor did Saturday while trying to chase down a foul ball. But this losing streak for the Eagles was getting painfully annoying nonetheless.
O’Connor, who split open his face between his eyes, was fine and breathing easy by the end of the game. And so were his teammates, for that matter.
With a 4-2 victory, visiting Lakes got revenge for last year’s 1-run loss to Grayslake Central in the regional semifinals, not to mention all of the losses that preceded that. And there had been quite a few.
“We definitely haven’t had much success against Grayslake Central and we lost a close game to them last year in the tournament that was really tough,” Lakes coach Ray Gialo said. “Grayslake Central is the standard around here for good baseball and they’re the team you’ve got to beat if you want to to get out of a regional, or the sectional. Any time you get a chance to get a win against these guys, you’ve got to be excited about that.”
Three Lakes seniors, Chris Hoffman, Nick Traska and Jake Brown, took particular pleasure in this win. They’ve been on the varsity since their sophomore year and had never before beaten Grayslake Central.
“This is probably going to be one of the biggest games of the year for us,” said Traska, the Eagles’ veteran center fielder. “This win means so much to us.
“We battled and we came together as a team today. We can reflect back on this game when we play other close games.”
Lakes and Grayslake Central were tied at 2-2 through five innings when catcher Danny Jackson came up with a single to drive in his second run of the day for the Eagles (5-7), and exorcise some of his own personal demons in the process.
“Danny works as hard as anyone hitting-wise, but he had been struggling at the plate,” Gialo said. “Because he cares a lot, the harder it is on him. So we’ve worked with him on just relaxing and he did and it worked for him today.”
Jackson’s single brought in Brown, who opened the sixth with a single.
“I just saw a pitch I liked and drove it up the middle,” said Jackson, who finished 2-for-2 on the day with a double in the second inning that brought in the Eagles’ first run. “We got some clutch hits today.”
O’Connor, who had his encounter with the right field fence in the third inning but returned in the top of the seventh for his final at-bat, opened the inning with a single and then eventually scored off a single by Traska to give the Eagles a nice insurance run.
“Five of the seven innings, (Lakes) got their lead-off guy on and that puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” said Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen, whose team drops to 6-5. “We didn’t have an inning like that.”
Grayslake Central starting pitcher Nick Hosford scored in the first inning and drove in the Rams’ other run in the fourth inning.
“We just had the wrong approach at the plate,” Hosford said. “We were guessing pitches. We were putting the ball in play but just hitting the ball right at them.”
Lakes pitchers Chris DeRue and Nick Seketa combined to give up just 2 hits to Grayslake Central, a team that had scored a total of 20 runs in its previous two games.
DeRue, the starter, got the win to improve his record to 2-2.
- Lakes - 011 001 1 - 4 7 1
- Grayslake Central - 100 100 0 - 2 2 2
- WP - Chris DeRue (2-2) 5 IP, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 2 hits, 3 K's, 5 BB's, 1 HBP
- LP - Edwards
- SV - Nick Seketa (1) 2 IP, 0 runs, 0 hits
- Lakes (5-7 overall)
- Key Hitters for Lakes: Danny Jackson (2-3, 2 RBI, 2B), John O'Connor (1-1, 2 runs, BB, SB)
The Eagles got solid pitching and timely hitting to pick up a 4-2 win over Grayslake Central. Senior Chris DeRue started for Lakes and threw five innings only allowing two runs on two hits. Junior catcher Danny Jackson had a two out double to drive in the Eagles' first run and also drove in the winning run with a 2-out single to centerfield. Junior Nick Seketa threw the last two innings retiring all six hitters that he faced. Senior John O'Connor also scored two runs.