Baseball: Grant edges South Elgin in thrilling sectional finalSouth Elgin catcher Andrew Perry stands at the plate as Grant's Brent Spohr scores the winnning run Saturday. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 2, 2012 10:31PM
Right up until the final at-bat the hits kept on coming Saturday during the championship game of the Class 4A McHenry Sectional.
With his team trailing South Elgin by one run in the bottom of the seventh, Grant junior Tyler Gorski stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. What followed was a riveting showdown between Gorski and Storm reliever David Palmer as Gorski fell behind in the count but refused to go down without a fight, mirroring the nature of the entire contest.
Finally, on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Gorski laced a two-run single into the gap in left center, setting off a wild celebration as the Bulldogs basked in their thrilling 12-11 victory and the first sectional title in program history.
“I can’t even describe what I was feeling,” Gorski said. “My heart was dropping and I was thinking I’ve got to do it, this can’t be the seniors’ last game. That’s when I put my foot down and got the one I wanted.”
South Elgin (21-13) never trailed until Gorski’s single brought home the tying and winning runs, but Grant (24-11) kept the pressure on from start to finish.
The Storm scored three runs in the top of the first, second and fourth innings to open a 9-4 lead, but the Bulldogs roared back with a five-run uprising in the bottom of the fourth capped off by a two-run home run from Simon Lucas that tied the score 9-9.
Andrew Weedman’s towering two-run homer in the top of the sixth gave South Elgin an 11-9 advantage, but Grant came back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to earn a spot in the Rockford Supersectional at 7 p.m. Monday against Schaumburg at Rockford RiverHawks Stadium.
The Storm and Bulldogs combined for 34 hits while staging their dramatic sectional final. Brent Spohr went 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored for Grant while Weedman was a perfect 4-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored to lead the way for South Elgin.
“We’d add three (runs), they’d get two, we’d add three more, they’d get another one,” Weedman said. “It was just never ending. We couldn’t get enough.”
Despite battling a sore right shoulder, Palmer (6-3) came on in relief with one out and two runners on in the fifth inning and got the Storm out of the jam by retiring the first two batters he faced. The junior stranded two more runners in the sixth, but he couldn’t wiggle off the hook in the bottom of the seventh.
A leadoff double followed by a walk put the tying run on base for the Bulldogs, but a sensational diving catch by South Elgin left fielder David Goins near the warning track robbed Grant’s Jordan Villarreal of extra bases for the first out of the inning. Palmer then struck out Jared Helmich, setting the stage for Gorski’s at-bat.
The count was one ball and two strikes when Palmer unleashed a curve ball that just barely missed the strike zone for ball two. The count remained even as Gorski stayed alive with two foul balls before connecting for the game-winning hit.
“We thought we ended the game on a called third strike, but the (umpire) called a ball,” South Elgin coach Jim Kating said of the final at-bat. “That’s the way baseball goes. It’s a game of inches.”
Both teams used three pitchers, and Lucas (2-2) tossed the final three innings for Grant to earn the victory. He allowed two earned runs on two hits.
Jake Ring reached base in all five of his at-bats for the Bulldogs and finished 3-for-3 with two RBI and three runs scored. Gorski (3-for-5, three RBI), Lucas (2-for-4, three RBI), Helmich (2-for-4) and Ryan Noda (2-for-3) also aided the 16-hit attack for Grant, which set a single-season program record for victories one day after tying the mark with a 5-2 semifinal win against Crystal Lake South that ended with a triple play.
“Nobody really had confidence in the baseball team in our school,” Ring said. “Now it’s the biggest thing out there.”
Ryan Ford (2-for-3, RBI, two runs), Jake Buhman (2-for-4, RBI), Joe Crivolio (2-for-4, three RBI), Andrew Perry (2-for-4) and Nevan Jeske (2-for-4) helped pace the offense for South Elgin.
Despite the disappointing outcome, the Storm’s players held their heads high after putting together an exciting postseason run that ended with the program’s first-ever appearance in a sectional championship game.
“I’m proud of the team,” Kating said. “Different kids stepped up both offensively and defensively the last few weeks. Practices picked up and enthusiasm picked up. I can’t ask anything more than what the kids and the coaching staff did.”