Class 3A State Semifinal Preview

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

On May 26 at 32 regional sights around the state, the marathon for Joliet began. On June 13, only four are still standing after winning regional and sectional crowns. No. 2 Lemont, No.3 Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, No. 22 Grayslake Central and Metamora have all reached the hallowed grounds of Silver Cross Field in Joliet.

Lemont, led by Toronto Blue Jay draft picks Jake Latz and Mike Papierski, survived the insane Joliet Catholic Regional by defeating Power 25-ranked schools, Oak Forest and Lincoln-Way West. As we expected, the winner at JCA would cruise to Joliet, as the Indians rolled through the Lincoln-Way West Sectional and on Monday crushing De La Salle 11-1 in six innings, in the Standard Bank Stadium Supersectional in Crestwood.

The Cyclones of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, a Power 25 Top 10 fixture all season, even spending one week as the top school in the state, are led by Belmont University-bound Connor Etheridge and his Cincinnati Red 11th-round draft pick batterymate C Mitch Trees. The Cyclones survived a gauntlet in dispatching of 28-5 Quincy Notre Dame in the Glenwood Regional championship game, No. 8 Champaign Central at the SHG Sectional semifinal and finally No.22 Mascoutah on Monday at the Sauget Supersectional.

Grayslake Central returns to Silver Cross after finishing third in the 2013 Class 3A Tournament. The Rams defeated three sub-500 schools to reach the Marian Central Catholic Sectional championship game, where they defeated 24-14 Gordon Tech. In the North Central College Supersectional on Monday, the Rams defeated Chicago Catholic League White Division co-champion Fenwick to return to Joliet.

Kansas State-recruit junior Ethan Skender and sophomore Geremey Guerrero have led Metamora after the devastating injury on March 31 disabled 2013 PBR All-Stater Trent Johnson. Metamora  ousted Mid-Illini Conference co-champion and rivals East Peoria and Washington to win their own regional at Metamora. The Redbirds scored 18 runs in their two La Salle-Peru Sectional wins and then crushed Sycamore to win the Augustana Supersectional on Monday.

Semifinal 1: No.2 Lemont (33-5) vs. Metamora (26-12) Silver Cross Field Joliet, 10 am.
Lemont  -
The Indians are led by Toronto Blue Jay draft picks left-hander Jake Latz and his batterymate Mike Papierski. The Blue Jays drafted Latz in the 11th-round and Papierski in the 16th. Latz has allowed just two earned runs in  55.1 inings pitched, compiling a 9-0 record with 103 strikeouts. Papierski hit .404 with 11 doubles, three triples and a team-leading seven bombs with 26 RBI.

University of Houston-bound Mike Wisz leads the Indians with a robust.478 average with 10 doubles, two triples, five homers and a team-leading 38 RBI. St. Louis University bound Jake Terrazas chips in with a .365 average with a bomb and 31 RBI. The versatile Joliet Junior-College bound lefty Charlie Wright is the solid No.2 man on the mound for Lemont. Wright is 7-1 with a miniscule 0.77 ERA with 59 strikeouts in his 54.2 IP. Wright also nailed down a pair of saves for the Indians.

The Indians are led by coach Brian Storoko, who is in his third season at the school. Storoko is 56-12 and this is the first appearance for Lemont in the state finals.  

Metamora- The saga of the 2014 Metamora Redbirds reached its zenith with the convincing 10-0 Augustana College Supersectional win over Sycamore, punching the Redbird’s ticket to their first appearance in school history at state. The low-point was on March 31 in Joliet when 2013 PBR All State RHP Trent Johnson went down with a devastating injury during a 1-0 defeat to Joliet Catholic Academy. Without the University of Arizona-recruit’s powerful arm and bat, the Redbirds struggled through the regular season. Their turnaround began with the ousting of Mid-Illini Conference rivals and co-champions East Peoria and Washington in the Metamora Regional.

Kansas State-recruit Skender leads the Redbirds with a .397 average with nine doubles, two triples and 11 homers. Skender has driven home 35 Metamora runs. Junior Caleb Brachbill adds a .370 average with 28 RBI.

Two sophomores anchor the Metamora pitching staff. Lefty Guerrero is 7-1 with a 1.19 ERA. Guerrero has 72 strikeouts in his 58.1 innings pitched. Alex Lewis is also 7-1 with a 1.31 ERA.. Lewis fired a no-no in the Metamora Regional championship game win over rival Washington on May 31. Head Coach Eric Stone is in his 13th season at the Woodford County school and has compiled a 228-225-1 record.

Semifinal 2: No.3 Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin (37-3) vs. No. 22 Grayslake Central (29-10)

Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin - The Central State 8 champion Cyclones rolled through the tough CS8 without a loss in 2014. Belmont-bound Etheridge and junior lefty Ben McElwee are a combined 22-0 on the mound for the Cyclones. Senior Peter Young checks in with a 9-1 mark with a 0.34 ERA. Etheridge 13-0 with a 0.70 ERA has been the staff ace. Etheridge has 96 punchouts in his 80 innings of work. McElwee is 9-0 with a 0.85 ERA with 77 strikeouts in his 57.1 innings pitched.

The Cyclone attack is led by Trees and senior Corey Mason. Trees is hitting .404 with five homers and 37 RBI while Mason is batting .407 with four homers and 38 RBI. Senior Steve Sartore chips in at a .402 clip with 29 RBI.

SHG Head Coach Mike Eck is in his eighth season at the Sangamon County school, compiling a 190-82 record. This is the 10th trip for the Cyclones to state, winning the 1964 single class championship and once again in 1987 AA, in the two-class system. SHG also took the AA State Runner-Up trophy back to Sangamon County in 1982.

Grayslake Central- The Fox Valley Conference champs return to Joliet after taking home the third place trophy back to Lake County in 2013.The Rams have guaranteed their third state trophy in the last six years, having taken third also in 2007.

Junior lefty Justin Guryn has been the man for the Rams this season. As the Ram ace, Guryn is 11-4 with a 1.41 ERA. Guryn has 94 strikeouts in his 71 innings of work. Senior right-hander Russell Lundius has been a solid No. 2 for GC with a 7-1 record and a fine 1.62 ERA. 6-foot-3 senior shortstop Freddie Landers has led the Ram attack with a .385 average with 11 doubles and 28 RBI. Senior Pat Burba has driven in a team-high 29 runs while junior Jonathan Hoffman checks in with a .434 average with 17 RBI.

Ram coach Troy Whelan is in his 12th season at Grayslake Central with a 283-163 record at the Lake County school.

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