Prep Baseball Report

Lake Forest's Coughlin Enjoys Day Against Former Team

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

Cal CoughlinMUNDELEIN, IL – This wasn’t just another ordinary nonconference game for Lake Forest junior Cal Coughlin. When he stepped off the bus Thursday afternoon at Carmel High School, Coughlin returned to his old school to compete against his old teammates, and coach, from last spring.

Upping the ante in this matchup was it featured two of the top-ranked 2016 prospects in Illinois, No. 3 Coughlin and No. 1 Carmel catcher Cooper Johnson, who are close friends and longtime teammates.

But if Coughlin had any nerves, one couldn’t detect, as he did just about everything in leading unbeaten Lake Forest to an 8-4 victory.

“I just wanted to beat these guys,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Texas Christian recruit. “I didn’t want to lose to them. I love them, but I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I lost.”

The game, however, began far from picturesque for Coughlin and Lake Forest (12-0). Coughlin rolled a grounder on his first pitch of the game at the second baseman, but it was bobbled and the runner reached on an error. Then the first baseman dropped a pickoff throw. Then Dylan Van Erden’s  sacrifice bunt went for a hit, putting runners on first and third with no outs and the Mississippi-bound Johnson coming to the plate. The two friends battled, but Coughlin left an 83-mph slider up in the zone and Johnson ripped a laser to right-center field for a two-run double. Coughlin proceeded to get out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts, including one on a nasty 82-mph slider.

“I wasn’t worried,” said Coughlin, who had closed out Lake Forest’s victory over Libertyville the day before. “I made one bad pitch to Cooper, but I knew I would get the rest of them out.”

Lake Forest responded in the top of the second inning to tie the game, 2-2, on junior Cal Kropke’s two-run bloop single to right field.

After that, Coughlin cruised through four innings, feeding Carmel (6-8) a mixture of 88-89 mph fastballs, curveballs at varying speeds and shapes, and occasional low-80 sliders. He didn’t walk a batter through four innings, but he lost his command in the fifth and walked five before leaving the game with Lake Forest leading 7-4.  He finished with seven strikeouts, allowed four hits and three earned runs in 4.2 innings.

Coughlin, a switch-hitter who’s one of the top two-way players in the Midwest, also delivered at the plate. With the game still tied 2-2 in the fifth, Coughlin laced a two-out opposite-field single to left-center, scoring Cole Digman, who had doubled. Then the floodgates opened. Senior right fielder Charlie Sullivan followed with a run-scoring double. A hit by pitch, a walk and two Carmel errors added up to five runs in the fifth and a comfortable 7-2 advantage.

Coughlin piled on an insurance run in the sixth with a RBI double down the right-field line. In the bottom half of the inning, he made three putouts at shortstop, including one ranging over the second base bag and flipping the ball to the second baseman to get a force out. Lake Forest ended the near three-hour contest when Coughlin turned a 6-3 double play.

Senior left fielder Mateo Hargitt finished 2-for-3 with a double, walk and two runs scored, and Digman added a pair of runs to go along with his double. Sullivan pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to nail down the save.

For Carmel, junior CF Joe Santoro singled and walked twice and junior LF Griffin Norton scored two runs. And back to the big matchup between Coughlin and Johnson. After Johnson banged the hanging slider for a two-run double, the two had an impressive battle in the second at-bat. Finally, Coughlin dropped a 3-2 curveball to strike Johnson out looking. In the third at-bat, again they tangoed to a 3-2 count, this time Coughlin’s curveball missed and Johnson walked.

More in-depth scout notes will be added to the Illinois Scout Blog later.

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