CRYSTAL LAKE – Eric Schiller hadn’t thrown many of his 109 pitches when simply gripping a baseball became an issue.
Between the driving winds and Friday’s winter-like temperatures, though, the Crystal Lake South senior pitcher relied on solid defense and a heavy dose of early offense in an 11-4 win over Cary-Grove that kept the Gators undefeated on the season.
Schiller overcame his only shaky inning of the day – a three-run second inning when he allowed an inside-the-park home run and walked three. From there, he settled in despite fighting snowy conditions that weren’t exactly ideal.
“I’ve never pitched in this kind of weather before,” Schiller said. “I’m ready for the Alaskan Baseball League. So after the second inning, I just had to throw strikes and let them hit it.”
South (10-0, 7-0 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division) gave Schiller plenty to work with.
The Gators batted around in the first, scoring seven runs on seven hits, capped by Ryan Wilkening’s two-run triple. The Gators tacked on three more runs in the second, taking advantage of the first of three C-G errors to go along with Michael Danca’s RBI double.
Schiller and his defense took things from there. relying mostly on his fastball and knuckle curve, Schiller kept the Trojans’ hitters off-balance, allowing only one more run the rest of the way.
“Schiller just came out and threw a gem,” said South first baseman Max Mietzler, who finished 4 for 4 in the win. “He kept the ball down on a day like today when it was windy and it was blowing out. So all he had to do was keep the ball down.”
The Trojans cut into the early deficit, but then hurt themselves with sloppy defense. In addition to the throwing error that led to two South runs in the second inning, C-G (11-3, 5-1 FVC Valley) struggled with making basic plays and decisions, keeping it from regaining any momentum.
Daniel Vilardo had the home run and Jeremy Vasquez had an RBI single, but it was far from enough to make up for the costly miscues.
“Our defense has been good, but we struggled tremendously,” C-G coach Don Sutherland said. “It was bad.”
Sutherland said the early seven-run deficit wasn’t a concern, especially with the gusty conditions that blew routine fly balls out of the reach of outfielders. But South’s early offense made life easy for the Gators and for Schiller, who struck out five – including two in the seventh – to close out the complete-game win.
“I think it was important to get up early,” South coach Brian Bogda said. “Putting up seven runs on any day is good, but a day like today, you can never have enough.”