State Baseball Finals: Ryan Folliard foils Sacred Heart-Griffin’s plans, lifts Lemont to first championship
By Sean Duncan For Sun-Times Media June 14, 2014 4:36PM
Lemont players celebrate with the first place trophy after their 2-1 victory against Sacred Heart-Griffin during the IHSA Class 3A State Championship at Silver Cross Field in Joliet on Saturday, Jun. 14, 2014. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 16, 2014 6:46AM
The Class 3A state championship game between Lemont and Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin had all the elements of being an instant classic.
Two top-ranked teams, with high-level players all over the field. Two undefeated pitchers on the mound, both carrying sub-one ERAs, taking their respective teams into a scoreless tie heading into the seventh inning.
And the finish didn’t disappoint. In one of the most memorable title games in recent history, Ryan Folliard lined a two-out, two-run single up the middle in the bottom of the seventh Saturday to lift Lemont to a 2-1 victory at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.
“This is unreal. To be able to come through in that position ... oh man,” Folliard said. “My mouth was dry. I was licking my lips, but I was ready.”
Lemont’s first championship in the school’s first baseball appearance seemed improbable at best, despite an incredible performance by senior left-hander Jake Latz.
After Sacred Heart-Griffin (38-4) scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh, Lemont (35-5) made two quick outs against junior left-hander Ben McElwee (9-1). Down to the final out, junior third baseman Mike Gralla, who had committed a costly error that led to the Cyclones’ run, kept the Indians’ hopes alive with a single.
McElwee then induced Jamie Glista into a weak grounder. The second baseman bobbled it, Glista reached safely, and Danny Dowiarz followed with a walk to load the bases. It brought up Folliard, who was 0-for-3.
When Folliard’s line drive headed to center field, two runs scored, igniting a wild celebration at home plate.
“Finally people can’t say that we don’t do anything in the playoffs,” said LSU-bound Mike Papierski, who went 1-for-2 with an intentional walk. “We proved we’re the best team in 3A.”
While Folliard delivered the heroic hit, it was the performance of Latz (10-0) who carried Lemont — not only in the game, but every start he took the mound.
Latz was dominant against Sacred Heart-Griffin. He threw a three-hitter, which included a bad-hop single and a misplayed ball in left, while striking out 11 and walking three. In the final three innings, Latz struck out seven.
“We have talked about this all year, that when adversity hits, someone has to pick you up,” said Latz, an LSU recruit drafted in the 11th round. “What a way to end it.”
McElwee, a 6-3 junior, matched Latz pitch for pitch, throwing a five-hitter with four strikeouts and three walks. And when Ryne Elvers, the Cyclons’ No. 9 hitter, singled up the middle, scoring his sophomore brother Cal Elvers, it looked like McElwee had shut down one of the most productive offenses in the state.
“We could have easily given up,” Lemont coach Brian Storako said. “But we didn’t, we stuck with it. We put pressure on them, and that’s been our motto all year.”