CRYSTAL LAKE – Cary-Grove third baseman Jacob Duncan dived toward the hard shot off Nick DiBenedetto’s bat and snagged it, but Duncan could not complete the transfer and get DiBenedetto at first base.
The play was ruled a hit, ending Trojans pitcher Quinn Priester’s no-hit bid, but otherwise hardly diminishing a 97-pitch gem in which he struck out nine and tied up Crystal Lake South’s hitters for seven innings.
C-G’s offense, even without hot-hitting leadoff man Dymitri Kanellakis, gave Priester ample support with 11 hits in an 8-0 Fox Valley Conference victory Saturday at The Swamp.
Only three balls left the infield as Priester, projected to go in the first or second round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft in June, improved the Trojans' record to 9-4 overall, 3-2 in the FVC.
“You can’t take anything away from Quinn for how he battled today with the wind the way it was,” C-G coach Ryan Passaglia said. “In his bullpen, it was all over the place. It was really moving. He settled down nicely. This is the most calm I’ve seen him pitch all season.”
The wind was blowing straight out to center field at 16 to 27 mph, but Priester gauged what it was doing to his pitches and used it to his advantage.
“I had a lot of movement with the wind in my face,” Priester said. “It kind of helped out the ball movement. The wind makes it move a lot more. My curveball today was breaking way more than it usually does. Trying to control it was a little difficult, and the same thing with my four-seam (fastball), it had a lot more run on it.”
South (8-4, 4-4) struggled to get quality swings against Priester, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder who consistently hits 93 to 94 mph on speed guns. No Gator had come close to a hit before DiBenedetto’s grounder toward the hole.
The Trojans and Priester were aware the no-hitter was in progress.
“[Duncan] made a great play, full extension. He just couldn’t get the transfer,” Priester said. “The big thing is we got the win.”
Kanellakis, C-G’s junior center fielder and leadoff man, was taking an ACT test Saturday, so Passaglia moved Jack Thompson, who usually hits No. 9, to the top spot. Thompson responded by going 2 for 4 and scoring three times. In both innings he led off, he singled.
“I was just looking for good pitches to hit, trying to get on base in any way and help my team as much as I could,” said Thompson, who hit leadoff earlier this season. “Dymitri has been so hot for the team, so I tried to fill his shoes the best I could.”
Thompson and Ryan Weaver singled in the first, then scored on Priester’s double. They both singled again in the seventh, then scored on Drew Stengen’s double and on a wild pitch.
“Quinn did a terrific job of mixing speeds. It was impressive,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “He’s a competitor and a great kid and did a nice job of throwing strikes. I don’t fault our effort. We did a few things defensively that weren’t too good.”
Bogda wanted the Gators to try to elevate Priester’s pitch count, keep the game close and see if they could get to the Trojans’ bullpen. Priester did not let that happen.
“His curveball was dropping off the table,” Passaglia said. “Once you get your release point down, you can use [the wind] to your advantage. When you have that two-seamer running like it does, his four-seamer, curveball and changeup, what do you sit on? When he’s locked in, he’s as tough as anybody around.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove, sr., P
Priester threw a one-hitter, striking out nine and walking two while throwing 97 pitches to lead the Trojans past Crystal Lake South.
7: The innings in which C-G put its leadoff batter on base (four hits, two errors and one walk).
AND ANOTHER THING ...
There appeared to be about 10 major league scouts at Saturday’s game, not nearly the crowd of the week before when every MLB team was represented. Saturday's contingent saw one of Priester’s most dominant performances.
Cary-Grove 8, Crystal Lake South 0
Cary-Grove 210 113 0 – 8 11 0
CL South 000 000 0 – 0 1 3
WP: Quinn Priester, 4-0 (7IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 9K). LP: Joey Walsh, 0-1 (4.2IP, 7H, 5R, 3ER, 3BB, 5K).
Top hitters–Cary-Grove: Jack Thompson 2-4 (3R), Ryan Weaver 3-4 (2R), Drew Stengen 1-3 (2RBIs), Priester 1-3 (2B, 2RBIs), L.J. Waco 2-3 (RBI). CL South: Nick DiBenedetto 1-3.