WESTERN SPRINGS – T.J. Adams proudly considers himself an old-school baseball player.
The Lyons Township junior’s uniform is always dirty and his teammates love it.
Not so his mother.
“Oh, no, she doesn’t,” Adams said. “I come home every day and the uniform is looking like this.
“I’m a base stealer. I get dirty a lot.”
Indeed, he does. Adams, a junior outfielder who transferred last year from St. Joseph, was covered in dirt Thursday after going 3-for-3 with two runs scored in the Lyons Regional championship game.
But he was all smiles as his performance, which combined with a stellar effort from emergency pitcher Danny Machaj, helped the Lions beat Nazareth 4-0 to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in three seasons.
LT (15-4) will play Fremd at 10 a.m. Monday at North Central College in the opening round of the double-elimination Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
“It’s crazy,” Adams said. “I never even won a regional so this is fun.
“I’ve been trying to make an impact on the team and it seems to be working. It’s unbelievable that we’re going to state.”
Adams, a varsity rookie, wasted no time getting his uniform soiled. He got the game’s first hit, a one-out single to center, in the bottom of the first.
Nazareth pitcher Archer Wagner immediately tried to pick him off, but his third attempt got away from first baseman Gianni Moran and Adams scampered to third.
Moran got out of that jam, but it was a portent of things to come. In the third, Thomas Remijas and Adams singled and moved up on a wild pitch. Machaj followed with a two-run double down the left field line and later scored on Andrew Gatland’s sacrifice fly.
“He’s just getting on base all the time,” Machaj said of Adams. “That’s why we have him up in the lineup.
“He’s fast, we like his speed and he can steal. That’s why they’re worried about him.”
Adams tries to steal at least two bases per game. He didn’t have any Thursday but his mere presence on the bases spooked Nazareth pitchers into throwing over repeatedly.
It happened again in the fifth when Adams beat out an infield hit. Machaj walked and both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Adams scored on a Justin Malpede’s infield hit.
“I was getting my bigger leads, trying to get them to pay attention to me,” Adams said. “Fortunately, today they threw over and made a mistake.”
Machaj,a senior who plays mostly third base and catcher, made everyone take notice of him for a different reason. The Lions were in desperate need of someone to eat innings and Machaj, who had made just “one or two” appearances this summer, responded by hurling a complete-game shutout.
“It was a phenomenal job on the mound for Danny,” Adams said. “He was attacking hitters right away and was not being fearful and the defense backed him up.”
The Roadrunners had scored 14 runs in their semifinal win over top-seeded York, but Machaj held them to eight hits, all singles.
“We used him more as a reliever throughout the spring season,” LT coach Kevin Diete said. “We were running a little short on arms so we asked him if he wanted the ball and he said yes.
“That’s the kind of confidence that we like in our players. It was great to see that.”
Nazareth did have chances. The Roadrunners loaded the bases with one out in the second on infield singles from Troy Siranovic, Zach Smith and Mike Milano, but Machaj struck out the next hitter looking and induced a tap back to the mound to end the inning.
Nazareth threatened again in the seventh as Wagner and Milano singled. Machaj responded with a strikeout, a force play at second and fly ball to right, where Adams raced in to make the game-clinching catch.
“I was just going up there thinking to just throw the ball, just go as far as I can because I’m usually not a pitcher,” said Machaj, who struck out five and didn’t walk anyone. “[The coaches] just needed anybody who could go in.
“My arm was feeling good the whole game. I just didn’t feel any pain the whole time so I just kept going.”