THE SKINNY: Playing in the North Suburban Conference Championship Game for the first time since 2001, Libertyville (27-5) needed luck to tie the game when it was down to its last strike, and then won it when backup catcher Ryan Jackson delivered a squeeze bunt in the top of the eighth. Grant (24-7) is now 0-3 in league title games, having also lost in 2002 and 2003.
THE TURNING POINT: There were two of them. Grant led 3-2 in the top of the seventh when Libertyville’s Hunter Van Wagner fell behind 0-2 with runners on first and third. Grant pitcher Jacob Lewis threw the next pitch to the backstop, and Connor Simpson scored. In the top of the eighth, Riley Lees led off with a walk and stole second. An infield out moved Lees to third and Jake Vogt walked. Jackson then got a bunt down the first-base line that scored Lees.
THE STAR: Libertyville pitcher Jeff Barton went all eight innings, fanning nine, walking two and giving up a solo homer to Simeon Lucas and a two-run rocket to Ryan Noda. But, in the seventh and eighth innings, Barton fanned five of the last six batters he faced, including Lucas and Noda for the game’s final outs.
QUOTABLE: “Noda and Simeon are on my summer team. They’re both Division I players, and they had both hit home runs off of me already. So I went with a changeup against Noda the last two times, and with Simeon the last time. It worked for me.” — Barton on the eighth-inning punchouts
QUOTABLE: “It’s a special feeling. It has the same kind of energy as winning a regional or sectional. It’s another feather in our cap. We’re chasing the ring, but it’s a great first step, and for the guys on the team, it’s the first time we’ve won a conference championship.” — Skoug
QUOTABLE: “Coach had actually put it (the eighth-inning squeeze) on for Jake (Vogt), the batter before, and he got four balls in a row. I got up there and wasn’t really sure what they wanted me to do, so I called timeout and talked to coach (Jim) Schurr. He said, ‘OK, we’re going to go safety squeeze here. Riley is blazing fast, so all you have to do is put it between the white lines and we’re going to be good.’ I saw it spinning and I’m thinking, ‘Please stay fair,’ and it just kind of sat down. It was an incredible feeling, in such an exciting game too.” — Jackson