DOWNERS GROVE – Luke Adams is used to closing out Hinsdale Central’s biggest games with a demeanor and presence meant for those moments.
He’s never had a moment like this one.
Adams, a Red Devils’ junior and Michigan State recruit, hit a sky-high fly ball with two outs in the top of the seventh that was dropped, clearing the bases with the tying and two go-ahead runs.
After that stunning turn of events, Adams stepped on the mound in relief to close it out.
“It was straight goosebumps,” Adams said. “My adrenalin was rushing, those first two pitches I put them in the dirt and after that I tried to slow it down and throw across the plate.”
Adams did just that, finishing off third-seeded Hinsdale Central’s thrilling 6-4 win at second-seeded Downers Grove South in a Class 4A sectional semifinal in front of a large crowd in Downers Grove.
The Red Devils, who advance to play at top-seeded Brother Rice Friday, never trailed Wednesday until two out in the sixth inning, saw Downers Grove South take a 4-3 lead on John Szalko’s two-out, two-run single, then reclaimed the lead for good with three runs in the top of the seventh with the benefit of two walks and the dropped fly ball.
“It’s not over until the last out,” Hinsdale Central coach Jason Ziemer said. “We tell our guys to run the bases hard, they run the bases hard, you can’t take anything for granted. We’ve been doing it all year, grinding out at bats. We made our share of mistakes, they took advantage and we took advantage of the breaks they gave us. It’s a testament to how this group plays the game.”
Evan Chatterjee singled to start Hinsdale Central’s seventh-inning rally, and Blake Edmonds and Brian Daker both drew walks on full counts to load the bases for Adams.
Edmonds, who singled in go-ahead runs in the first and fifth innings, could only watch, hope for the best – and run hard – when Adams lifted a towering fly ball to center that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before it was dropped.
“Nobody was thinking that would happen,” Edmonds said. “I guess the baseball Gods were in our favor in that play and we won the game.”
Adams, engulfed by a mob of teammates after getting a strikeout to end the game, tipped his cap to his teammate in front of him.
“Blake had an absolutely fantastic game,” Adams said. “He had several at bats where he did his job and got big hits.”
For Downers Grove South, it was a devastating finish after twice rallying from being down.
The Mustangs (27-4) trailed 2-0 after Hinsdale Central’s two-run first inning, but scored twice in the fourth to tie it. Starting pitcher Noah Edders poked an RBI single to right field for the Mustangs’ first run, and Maxx Palenik’s two-out single tied it.
Edmonds’ second RBI single, in the top of the fifth, swung Hinsdale Central (23-3) back ahead 3-2, before Downers Grove South scored twice in the bottom of the sixth.
Joe Cosenza, who had three hits, singled and was bunted over, A.J. Taylor walked and stole second and with two out Szalko chopped a single up the middle to bring in both for a 4-3 lead.
The Mustangs mounted their sixth-inning rally after Edders had to leave the game with an apparent arm injury and two out in the fifth inning. Edders struck out nine and allowed just two hits, utilizing a tremendous wipeout slider for several swings and misses.
“We got a little bit rattled when Edders went down, got a little shell-shocked, but the kids battled right back,” Mustangs coach Darren Orel said. “Got a big hit out of Szalko in the eight-hole, got the count to 3-2 twice, one strike away from winning, I don’t know. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
Hinsdale Central winning pitcher Ben Oosterbaan, a sophomore, struck out four over six innings and helped his cause defensively, starting an inning-ending double play in the first and making a tumbling catch in foul territory to end the second.
The Red Devils, who just won their first regional title since 2006 on Monday, now will try to match that 2006 team’s sectional title on Friday.
“We’re just trying to keep it rolling,” Edmonds said. “It’s been a fun ride.”
Same for Downers Grove South, which won 27 games and a West Suburban Gold title.
“Pretty darn good season,” Orel said. “These guys did everything we asked of them. Just a great group of kids, they love each other play hard for each other. It’s a special group of kids. It’s unfortunate how it ends, but it has to end sometime.”