Public (League) nuisance
Vikings rout city teams to collect another title
St. Laurence made itself a Public League nuisance last week.
And by doing so, the Vikings made themselves a regional champion.
Neither Simeon nor Juarez was able to slow rampaging St. Laurence, which left little to chance in two Class 4A regional games. The host Vikings sent both city foes back home in battered fashion, the result of lopsided outcomes.
Juarez was victimized first, 10-0 last Wednesday, although the Eagles had to share some of the blame for their downfall. Ten errors did nothing to help Juarez, which was limited to three hits and struck out a total of 11 times versus St. Laurence pitchers Frank Greco and Alex Hitney.
Simeon, one of the Chicago Public League’s better baseball-playing schools through the years, figured to give the Vikings more of a test on Saturday, but Mike Kornacker kept that from happening by fanning 12 and silencing the Wolverines on four hits. With no offensive weaponry of which to speak, Simeon was a sitting duck for the Vikings, who bagged a 9-0 triumph in Burbank and along with it a seventh regional title for ninth-year coach Pete Lotus.
St. Laurence (32-5), which is in the midst of its winningest season ever under Lotus, met up with Mt. Carmel this past Wednesday in a Reavis Sectional semifinal. The Vikings beat the defending state champs twice during the regular campaign, but Lotus said those earlier results can be ignored.
“It’s going to be tough as always,” he said of the sectional, which also includes St. Rita and Lyons Township. “For three years in a row, that’s the exact same lineup and it’s challenging.”
Even though securing its latest regional crown wasn’t all that demanding, Lotus was glad to see his guys react positively to it afterward.
“Our kids celebrated a little bit, which was good,” he said. “I know our kids want more and expect more, but the school doesn’t have a lot of these. This isn’t all that common, so they should be happy.
“Guys don’t [usually] realize what they accomplished until down the line. Anything can happen [in the playoffs]. Just think about all the things that had to go right to put ourselves in a good position to get a good seed.”
Plenty went right for St. Laurence on Saturday, too, starting with a three-run first inning that featured clutch hits from Kornacker (two RBI) and Roger Wilson (one). Kornacker and Kevin White both lofted sacrifice flies as part of another rally in the fourth, and Simeon exacerbated the later situation by committing a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt that led to two more tallies.
“Little things we did very well,” Lotus said. “We did a good job of putting ourselves in a position to score.”
That included swiping nine bases, many of which were ingredients in the Vikings’ run production. One of those steals, plus two more Wolverines miscues, a wild pitch and Brad Wood’s single were combined in the fifth to complete St. Laurence’s assault.
The Vikings spaced out their scoring on Wednesday, striking for runs in five of their six at-bats. With the slew of Eagles miscues factored in, St. Laurence didn’t need much to put Juarez in a predicament, so 10 hits were more than enough to inflict severe damage.
Wilson (two doubles), Rob Gutierrez (two hits, including an RBI double), Wood (two hits, one RBI) and Kornacker (two-run single) were the main men in the Vikings’ lineup. On the mound, Greco improved his record to 7-0.
“He’s done a great job,” Lotus said of his junior hurler. “He throws three pitches for strikes, which is a big deal in high school.
“He’s kind of rolled with whatever we’ve given him and taken it to the next level. He had a couple huge wins for us out of the bullpen [before this].”
While the Eagles presented little resistance, Lotus was pleased to see his athletes take them seriously.
“You definitely want your guys to be focused because it is a playoff game,” he said. “We told them we can’t take anything for granted, that we’ve got to play our best baseball. We played pretty well the last couple games and that’s always a good thing.”
St. Laurence 13
Marian Catholic 6
As preparation for the tournament, the Vikings closed out their regular schedule last Monday against the Spartans, who are just two years removed from a Class 3A state championship.
Marian Catholic generated far more offense than Juarez was to do two days later, and a chunk of it came off Wood, whose summons to the hill before the playoffs might have caught some people off-guard. The decision, however, wasn’t made haphazardly.
“There was a lot of thinking that went back a while,” Lotus said. “We knew we weren’t going to need him on Wednesday, but we didn’t want him to go two full weeks without throwing.
“We discussed it with Brad and asked him what he wanted to do. Brad has thrown consistently for us for three years and he knows exactly what it takes to get his body ready.”
Wood raised his ledger to 7-1 by allowing just one earned run and fanning six over five innings. He also contributed a double to St. Laurence’s attack.
Wilson (two hits, two RBI), Sean Burnette (homer, double, two RBI), White (RBI double), Mike Finger (hit, RBI), Greco (hit, RBI) and John Riordan (hit, RBI) were other pivotal performers at the plate. The Vikings snapped a 5-all tie by scoring five times in the sixth.
Simeon 000 000 0 — 0
St. Laurence 300 420 x — 9
St. Laurence 2B: Chimera. RBI: Kornacker 3, White, Wilson, Wood. WP: Kornacker (8-2).
Juarez 000 000 — 0
St. Laurence 102 421 — 10
St. Laurence 2B: Wilson 2, Gutierrez. RBI: Kornacker 2, Gutierrez, Marik, Wood. WP: Greco (7-0).
St. Laurence 002 035 3 — 13
Marian Catholic 140 000 1 — 6
St. Laurence 2B: Burnette, White, Wood. HR: Burnette. RBI: Burnette 2, Wilson 2, Finger, Greco, Riordan, White. WP: Wood (7-1).