RedHawks down — barely
Phoenix escape Marist upset bid to claim crown
Had Marist beaten top-seeded Lincoln-Way North on Saturday, RedHawks coach Tom Fabrizio wouldn’t have considered the outcome an upset.
And because his team played well enough to keep the championship of its own Class 4A regional squarely within its sights until the very end, Fabrizio wasn’t upset, either.
Sure, he would have preferred to play on in the postseason, particularly since the Phoenix earned a sectional semifinal date with Stagg. Fabrizio considers the Chargers’ coaches some of his best friends in baseball and would have enjoyed matching wits with them at tournament time.
He had nothing but praise, however, for his guys in the aftermath of a 4-3 final, which didn’t tilt in Lincoln-Way North’s direction until Nick Garcia belted a two-RBI double in the bottom of the seventh to expunge Marist’s one-run lead.
“In a pitch, you’re done,” Fabrizio said. “They were one pitch better, really. It’s devastating to say the least. It’s ending on a sour note, but I’m not [ticked].
“I feel bad for the kids [because] it was a heartbreaking loss, but they battled and played like warriors. I couldn’t ask for anything more from our kids. They did what they were coached to do and I’m proud of them.”
Fabrizio went on to call the contest the “best I’ve ever been a part of as a player or coach,” an admittedly odd admission coming from someone on the losing end of things. But Fabrizio said it “had all the elements [of a great game], including suspense.”
The RedHawks (21-15) struck first when Rich Kairis’ sacrifice fly brought home Blake Bieniek, who had gotten to second on a two-base error. But the Phoenix responded in their half of the first inning with Mike Rissling’s two-RBI single. That hit was part of a 4-for-4 day for the Lincoln-Way North player.
Nothing changed until the top of the sixth, which opened with a walk to Kairis. A wild pitch moved him to second, Kairis stole third and then he raced home on an overthrow. Tommy Finwall poked an RBI single a bit later to give Marist a short-lived edge.
The RedHawks threatened again in the seventh by loading the bases, but a failure to capitalize wound up being fatal to their quest for continued postseason survival. Pat Meehan, who pitched six strong innings of relief, and Grant Kenny both had two hits to pace Marist, which finished with six.
At no point of the season were the RedHawks an offensive juggernaut, which made their 20-plus-win achievement somewhat surprising. They offset a meager .210 team batting average with the pitching staff’s cumulative 2.30 earned-run average.
“We really pitched it and picked it up [on defense], and we were a dangerous team because of that,” Fabrizio said. “If this team could have hit a little better, we would have won 30 games.
“I felt we were battle-tested and were playing our best baseball, which is kind of what we’ve done [the past few seasons]. We sucked every bit of effort out of our kids and we really started to hit our stride.”
Saturday’s contest was Fabrizio’s last as Marist’s coach. He is leaving the school to accept a position at Andrew in the fall.
Marian Catholic 2
To reach the regional final, the RedHawks had to get past an East Suburban Catholic Conference rival last Thursday. They did so by making the Spartans play from behind right away.
A three-run first inning gave Marist a lead to protect, and it tacked on four more markers in the fourth to assume full control. Brett Callaghan’s two-RBI double fueled the initial surge and he added a sacrifice fly later in the game. Bieniek chipped in an RBI double, Eric Hanson had a hit and RBI, and Kenny (double) and Dylan Woodworth also hit safely.
Kairis stopped Marian Catholic on six hits. The win was the RedHawks’ second over the Spartans in three tries.
“I would have liked to have seen us play somebody else because, in the postseason, the fun is in playing other [unfamiliar] teams,” Fabrizio said. “It was going to be a toss-up, but we were comfortable with their lineup one through nine and the way we had them scouted.
“We had played close games with Marian before, so I didn’t want to take any chances. We wanted to throw our best guy, and they got in a hole early and couldn’t dig out. We were clicking on all cylinders, which gave me confidence going into Saturday.”
Lincoln-Way North 3
The RedHawks weren’t the only club to give the Phoenix a scare. Lincoln-Way North also had its hands full with the Astros, who suffered a heartbreaking defeat of their own last Wednesday.
Zach Hoekstra’s two-run single provided the Phoenix with their winning margin. Pitchers David Calderon and Joe Frederickson held Shepard (16-17) in check by scattering three hits between them and combining for 10 strikeouts.
Bobby Peterka’s groundout knocked in one of the Astros’ runs.
Bloom Twp. 0
Peterka was far more dominating last Monday, as were several teammates as the Astros posted a slaughter-rule win over the Blazing Trojans in a play-in contest.
Peterka smacked two doubles, scored twice and collected three RBI to spearhead a robust Shepard attack. Also figuring prominently were Mark Albrecht (two-run triple), Kevin Carmody (double, RBI, three runs), Kevin Knoerzer (double, two runs) and Eric Horbach (RBI single).
The Astros put up three spots in the first, third and fourth innings, then finished off Bloom Township with a solo marker in the fifth. Earning the pitching victory was Adam Gregory, who tossed a four-hitter and struck out six.
Gregory did issue four walks, but he managed to strand seven Blazing Trojans baserunners.
Marist 100 002 0 — 3
Lincoln-Way North 200 000 2 — 4
Marist RBI: Finwall, Kairis. LP: Meehan.
Marian Catholic 000 000 2 — 2
Marist 300 410 x — 8
Marist 2B: Bieniek, Callaghan, Kenny. RBI: Callaghan 3, Bieniek, Hanson. WP: Kairis.
Bloom Twp. 000 00 — 0
Shepard 303 31 — 10
Shepard 2B: Peterka 2, Carmody, Knoerzer. 3B: Albrecht. RBI: Peterka 3, Albrecht 2, Carmody, Horbach. WP: Gregory (3-5).
Lincoln-Way North 3
Shepard RBI: Peterka. LP: Smith (5-4).