LIBERTYVILLE — Countless legendary coaches have been quoted as saying some variation of the old adage “defense wins championships.”
If that’s the case, then the third inning of the Libertyville baseball team’s game at Lake Zurich April 22 may have been as good an example as any of the differences between a good baseball team and a great one.
First, Wildcats junior shortstop Jimmy Govern ranged to his left to snag a rocket grounder up the middle, nearly robbing the Bears of a base hit. One batter later, Sean Ferraro — starting in just his third varsity game for Libertyville — risked his body to make an outstanding sliding catch near a chain-link fence in foul territory in left field. Later yet in the same inning, all-state catcher Evan Skoug picked the leadoff batter off of second base with a gorgeous snap-throw from behind home plate.
“You know, I was just telling our guys the same thing before the game,” Libertyville manager Jim Schurr said. “Those are the types of defensive plays that change games. Literally. They’re also the ones that help win championships.”
The sequence was clearly demoralizing to Lake Zurich’s players. Such moments give Libertyville — which is already loaded with talent following last year’s Class 4A state title game appearance — an additional mental edge. Perhaps even a swagger of sorts.
“The catch by Sean [Ferraro] near the fence is a perfect example of a kid making the most of an opportunity, and shows just how important everyone contributing on a roster is,” Schurr said. “When you have a guy like that who’s only played in a handful of games this season becoming a factor, it’s a big deal.”
Ferraro’s bat — and in-game adjustments — were also factors at Lake Zurich, where he was 2-for-4 at the plate.
“My first two at-bats didn’t go the way I wanted them to, but I kept my head up,” Ferraro said. “They got me out with curveballs the first two times, but then the third at bat, I got a curveball again and took it to right. Then in my final at bat, I hit another curveball to center for a base hit.”
Libertyville entered the week with a 14-2 record, including a perfect 12-0 mark against Illinois teams. They’re fresh off an 8-7 statement win over a pitching-heavy Carmel squad, a victory that saw the Wildcats rally from a 7-3 deficit. It was capped by Noah Greenberg’s walk-off single to right.
Amidst the Wildcats’ red-hot start, Skoug continues to stand out. He has a chance to be selected in this summer’s MLB Amateur Draft, and the MLB.com website even featured a one-minute video stating he has a bat that “could produce 20 home runs on an annual basis.”
Though he said things were “always subject to change,” Skoug has been told by scouts he could be selected fairly high in the draft. It may force him to choose between going to TCU — where he’s signed to play college ball — or turning pro with what could be a large signing bonus.
In the 2012 draft, Mundelein lefty pitcher Ryan Borucki nabbed a $426,000 bonus for signing with the Toronto Blue Jays after being selected in the 15th round.
Skoug, who bats left-handed but throws righty, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of going pro.
“That’s something I’ll have to discuss with my family when the time comes if I’m fortunate enough to have that happen,” Skoug said.
Three members of Libertyville’s powerhouse baseball team recently signed letters of intent to play ball next spring at the collegiate level.
They are pitcher/outfielder Andrew Mack (Grinnell College in Iowa), infielder Noah Greenberg (Concordia College in Wisconsin) and pitcher/outfielder Ian Grant (Rose-Hulman in Indiana).
So far this spring, Rose-Hulman is 21-13 playing at the NCAA Division III level. Also at Division III,Grinnell is 14-14 and Concordia is 18-14.
— Staff report