Three local teams blanked in regional final
By Ken Karrson
The nation’s workforce tends to hate Mondays.
After results were in for some rain-delayed regional finals, a sizable group of baseball players echoed that same sentiment.
The start of June meant the end of the season for three local teams, and making the defeats sting a little more was the fact that each club was shut out in its last contest of the spring. Perhaps the most surprising outcome was Brother Rice’s 5-0 loss to Marian Catholic in the Class 4A Shepard Regional championship game.
Also falling short were Stagg, which lost 4-0 to Lincoln-Way North in the latter’s regional, and Sandburg, which got rolled 11-0 by host Providence Catholic. The Celtics went on to beat Marist 3-2 in nine innings last Thursday to earn a spot opposite Marian, a 5-2 victory over the Phoenix, in the Marist Sectional title game.
The Spartans, an afterthought of sorts during the East Suburban Catholic Conference season, began their playoff journey with a 1-0 win over Shepard. Behind pitcher Mark DiLuia Marian’s good fortune continued versus the Crusaders, who managed just two hits -- singles by Andrew Dyke and Ryan King -- off the hurler.
“We didn’t play sloppy; they just beat us,” Rice coach John McCarthy said. “They took it to us pretty good.
“You’ve got to credit Marian. They earned it. We couldn’t change momentum -- that was the biggest thing.”
The Spartans tallied once in their initial at-bat, but what really put Rice (26-11) in a bind was Marian’s three-run third that featured RBI from DiLuia (single) and Carlo Falconi (sacrifice fly). Also part of the rally was Lavezz Middleton’s sacrifice bunt that wasn’t fielded cleanly and gave the Spartans a second baserunner with nobody out.
“That was kind of a backbreaker,” McCarthy said of Marian’s uprising. “They were being aggressive, playing confident and things didn’t go our way. I was disappointed for our guys, but unfortunately that’s the way it bounces.”
The Crusaders’ scoring chances were few. They did load the bases in the third, but a popout extinguished that threat. Rice received eight free passes from DiLuia and had one batter hit by a pitch, but it also went down 10 times on strikeouts.
Ryan Kutt was the losing pitcher although he was charged with only two earned runs as the Crusaders finished the day with four errors. Middleton had two hits for Marian, Falconi drove in two runs and Dan Gutierrez (one hit) scored twice.
“It’s tough to take positives from the end of the season,” McCarthy said. “It’s the toughest day of the year for coaches [because] every year you have a unique set of guys. I was very pleased with this group and we had a blast.
“We had a great season. You always think you could have gone further [and] I’d like to have a little more playoff success, but we’re doing the right things and it’s going to break [right] for us one day.”
The Celtics seized command against the Eagles (18-14) right away last Monday as they struck for five first-inning runs. Leadoff hitter Mike Madej’s solo blast on an 0-2 pitch got it rolling for Providence and Jimmy Jeffries added a three-run dinger before the frame was out.
“The game started off as bad as it could have [for us],” Sandburg assistant coach Chuck Peters said. “There’s not really a way to sugarcoat it -- we just didn’t play well and we got thoroughly beat up. We made mistakes and got handled pretty good.”
While Peters said the Eagles didn’t show any signs of quit, the uphill climb was too steep -- and it grew steadily worse as Celtics pitcher Brent Villasenor never allowed Sandburg to get its offensive footing while his own team kept scoring. Only Dan Dziadkowiec and Ben Kociper had much success against Villasenor, who tossed a four-hitter.
“I think our team got deflated, which is a little disappointing, but [Providence was] the better team and they took it to us,” Peters said. “We hit a couple balls hard, but it was probably the worst playoff game we’ve ever had. Hopefully that doesn’t happen again.”
And the best course of action in Peters’ opinion is to simply forge ahead.
“We just have to get back at it next year,” he said.
L-W North 4
Chargers coach Matt O’Neill figured his squad would see Phoenix ace Kyle Ostrowski last Monday, and the Purdue University-bound hurler demonstrated his Division I-caliber abilities by mowing down 12 Stagg batters on third strikes and surrendering just three hits over 6 2/3 innings. Reliever Liam Jenkins finished off the Chargers (18-17) without incident.
Stagg pitcher Nick Gerzon wasn’t too shabby himself as he limited Lincoln-Way North to only four hits, but two of those -- Josh Mutter’s third-inning single and Ben Troike’s fourth-inning safety -- produced RBI. Pat Troike also knocked in a run during the latter frame with his groundout.
Max Downs delivered two of the Chargers’ hits off Ostrowski, including a double. His single in the second and an ensuing hit batsman gave Stagg two runners in scoring position with one out, but a popout and flyout quashed the would-be rally.
The Chargers also left the bags filled in the seventh and stranded a total of 11 men.