The Crystal Lake South baseball team’s season-long formula of dependable pitching, fluid defense and relentless offense translated to the biggest win in school history in Joliet on Friday.
Junior Noah Tyrrell blasted a 3-run, first-inning home run, junior right-hander Kyle Lang scattered 9 hits in a complete-game effort and the Gators played errorless defense behind him to defeat New Trier 9-3 in a Class 4A semifinal.
Crystal Lake South (35-5) advances to the state championship game Saturday at 5 p.m. against Edwardsville (34-7). It marks the first title-game appearance for the Gators, who finished fourth in Class AA in 1993.
“We play like a family. This is special,” said third baseman Brian Fuentes, who went 2-for-2.
Facing New Trier starting pitcher Patrick Jodloman (5-1) after Ryan Parquette walked and Fuentes singled, Tyrrell blasted a 1-2 fastball over the wall in left-center field to stake the Gators to a 3-0 lead.
“I didn’t think it was going to be out. It’s a pretty big field,” Tyrrell said. “I was just trying to hit something hard so we could get an early lead because I know when we can get an early lead we can really shut them down.”
The Gators made it a 4-0 cushion in the second inning when Brent Chubb sprinted from first to third on a passed ball and subsequently scored on a wild throw from New Trier’s catcher. “That was a huge hustle play there,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said.
CL South shortstop Kory Olsen delivered run-scoring singles in the third and fifth innings to extend the lead to 6-0.
Meanwhile, Lang kept New Trier (30-5) off balance with a good curveball to complement a well-located fastball. The 6-foot-3, 160-pound right-hander stranded a pair in the fourth inning with a strikeout.
“Nice arm slot, good mechanics and his ball moves,” New Trier coach Mike Napoleon said.
Lang’s defense had his back. Fuentes made a great play to end the third inning with Trevians at the corners. He tracked down a two-hopper in foul territory and made a long, accurate throw to nip No 3 hitter Kyle Donahue.
Earlier in the third inning Tyrrell knocked down a groundball at first base and threw to second base to begin a 3-6-3 double play.
“I just kept the ball low and trusted my defense,” Lang said of his approach. ” We played great.”
The Trevians scored 3 runs in the top of the sixth on 3 doubles, the last of which was interfered with by a CL South player guarding the bullpen, which resulted in a 2-base advancement for the third run.
The Gators answered with a 3-run sixth of their own, keyed by a single from Tyrrell, who finished with 4 RBI.
Lang returned for the seventh inning and retired the Trevians in order. He coaxed a game-ending infield pop from Donahue to set off a controlled celebration.
“It’s amazing,” Parquette said of the opportunity to play for the state title. “We mentioned it at the beginning of the year and some of us kind of had our doubts. Then we all came around and realized that us playing together, for each other and as a family is going to get us far. And that’s what’s worked for us.”