CARY – After Cary-Grove baseball coach Don Sutherland delivered his final post-game speech of the season to all of his players, he asked his seniors to stay behind.
For them, Sutherland had one more message: Thank you.
That was more important than breaking down the details of the top-seeded Trojans’ 6-5 loss to Barrington in the Class 4A Jacobs Regional semifinals. With the win, No. 4 seed Barrington advanced to play the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 2 seed Crystal Lake South and No. 3 seed Jacobs.
“Because I live in town, my kids live in town, I’ve seen these kids since Maplewood [Elementary School],” Sutherland said. “They don’t realize that’s over. You grow up playing together – I’m talking about the seniors in particular – and then, all of a sudden, it’s over.”
“But it’s never over. We had all of these kids I was talking to, and those guys down [along the fence] were all our alumni. We had so many alumni here.
“So the reality of it is you’re not playing here anymore, but you’re still a part of it.”
For proof, one needed to look no further than the opposing dugout, where Barrington coach Pat Wire managed his team to victory. As a three-sport athlete who graduated from C-G in 1996, Wire learned many lessons about baseball and life from Sutherland.
Wire struggled to describe what it meant to beat his alma mater on the field where he played.
“You have no idea,” Wire said. “I’m emotional.
“They’re my family. I grew up down the road. It’s hard [to describe]. It’s just amazing.”
Morning showers prompted the game to be played at C-G rather than Jacobs, but the move created little home-field advantage for the Trojans as they struggled with errors and sun-soaked misplays in the second inning. Yet C-G erased a 4-0 deficit by scoring one run in the second, three in the third and one in the fourth to grab a 5-4 lead.
Trojans first baseman Dean Lee’s two-run double to the right-center field gap – his second double of the game – tied the score in the third. Lee’s hit could have cleared the bases for one more run, but it was ruled a ground-rule double after the ball became lodged underneath the outfield fence.
The Broncos rallied to regain the lead in the fifth against Trojans starter Brandon McCumber on a walk, a single, a wild pitch and two run-scoring groundouts. Meanwhile, Barrington pitchers Wyatt Trautwein and Scott Nelson combined to hold the Trojans scoreless for the rest of the game.
Lee said he and his teammates fought to the end. Besides Lee, the Trojans received hits from Matt Ewert, Zach Marszal, McCumber, Daniel Vilardo and Matt Sutherland.
“We put our heart into every game that we play,” Lee said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t come out on the right side, but we still keep our heads up.”
After a 19-win season, it wasn’t easy for Sutherland to see his players leave the field.
“You always get emotional talking to seniors,” Sutherland said, “no matter how old you are or how many senior groups go by.”