JOLIET – Shortstop Cody Grosse ranged far to his left, spun around and fired a strike to first base to retire the batter.
Right-hander Brent Villasenor started and pitched two-hit ball over three scoreless innings Tuesday as Team Illinois White got off to a flying start, beating Colorado, 6-0, in the first of five games it is playing in the Midwest Baseball Classic at Plainfield South.
The event is for players entering their senior year of high school, with a limited number of juniors on the rosters of Illinois White, Illinois Tan, Colorado, New York, Indiana and Missouri.
The tournament is a round-robin running through Thursday. Illinois White faced New York later Tuesday.
Regardless of the schedule, a roster can contain as many as 25 players, and every kid involved knows he will see a fair amount of action.
Illinois White is managed by former Lockport coach and Hall of Famer Jim Hall. His roster includes Joliet West’s Grosse, Robert Talarico and Griffin McGuire; Providence’s Villasenor; Joliet Catholic’s Nick Dalesandro; Plainfield South’s Shane Ritter, and Lincoln-Way East’s Mitch Matuszewski.
Grosse had the privilege of playing in this tournament last summer, when his Joliet West teammate, Zack Thomas, also was a member of Illinois White.
Thomas, who graduated in the spring, was on hand to watch Illinois White and perhaps do a little recruiting. He will continue his career at NCAA Division I Chicago State and would love to bring Grosse along.
“Yeah, Zack wants me to come there and play with him,” Grosse said with a smile. “Chicago State has offered me. I have an offer from Heartland, too, but I really want to go to a four-year school.”
“Cody’s on the recruiting trail this summer like I was last year,” Thomas said.
Grosse said he just returned from Arizona, where he was with his summer team, the Downers Grove Long Shots, just in time to play in the Midwest Classic.
He also has played in Georgia and Michigan, “and that’s all this month,” he said.
That sort of schedule prevented Grosse from spending much time with the West summer team. “I played with them maybe twice all summer,” he said.
Next spring, though, he will be at shortstop with the Tigers. Along with Talarico and McGuire, he will attempt to help lead them to even greater heights than they achieved this spring, when they won the Class 4A Plainfield South Regional.
“I certainly want to see us go further,” he said. “Hopefully the three of us can lead the team.”
Villasenor arguably was 4A state champion Providence’s best pitcher during the regular spring season. At playoff time, seniors Jake Godfrey and Dylan Rosa got a majority of the innings. Villasenor is anxious for his shot at No. 1.
“Coach [Mark Smith] told me I’ll be the No. 1 next spring,” Villasenor said. “I want to live up to the expectations.”
Villasenor plays summer ball with the Illinois Sparks but missed some of that season because of Providence’s lengthy playoff run. He has been at tournaments in Georgia and Indianapolis but pitched only once. Tuesday marked his second outing of the summer.
“I pretty much shut it down this summer,” he said. “I felt a little discomfort in the elbow today. But it was cool to start the first game, and I was able to throw strikes.”
Learn more about the Midwest Baseball Classic at http://hfosterbaseball.blogspot.com/p/mwcbt.html.