Baseball: Marist, Marian Catholic one win away from reaching state finals
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org June 3, 2012 6:06PM
John McKevitt connects with a pitch for Marist late in the sectional final against Lincoln-Way North. Allen Cunningham~for Sun-Times Media.
(All games Monday)
(Standard Bank Stadium)
Marian Catholic vs. Simeon
(North Central College)
Nazareth Academy vs.
Grayslake Central, 4:30 p.m.
At Rock Island
LaSalle-Peru vs. Burlington Central, 7 p.m.
At Sauget (GCS Park)
Danville vs. Troy Triad, 5 p.m.
(Standard Bank Stadium)
Marist vs. Lyons, 7:30 p.m.
(University of Illinois)
Minooka vs. Naperville Central,
Oak Park-River Forest vs.
Highland Park, 4:30 p.m.
Grant vs. Schaumburg, 7 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:07AM
When the postseason began on May 21, Marist and Marian Catholic were considered long shots to reach the Class 4A and 3A state finals, respectively.
But after a roller-coaster two weeks of action, No. 4 seed Marist and No. 5 seed Marian Catholic, members of the East Suburban Catholic Conference, are all that remains from a talented contingent of Southland teams.
“Our conference prepared us for the playoffs,” said Marist coach Tom Fabrizio, whose RedHawks finished third in the ESCC behind Joliet Catholic and Carmel. “It’s a very competitive conference. You have to be ready to play every game.”
The RedHawks (29-11) have dominated their playoff competition, racking up a 40-8 scoring advantage in four games.
The most recent victim was No. 1 seed Lincoln-Way North on Saturday. The RedHawks, behind a valiant effort from pitchers Ryan Meyer and Cody Bohanek and timely hitting from John McKevitt and Jack Gainer, prevailed 5-1.
“I think the key has been us getting up more for games and having a better tempo at practice,” McKevitt said. “We’re giving all the energy we’ve got.”
Marist, hopefully, preserved some of that energy for Monday, when it takes on defending Class 4A state champion Lyons at the Crestwood Supersectional at Standard Bank Stadium.
The Lions (25-12-1) boast a dominant 1-2 pitching punch in Keith Lehmann and Steve Heilenbach. Lyons disposed of Catholic League Blue powers St. Laurence and Mount Carmel in succession to arrive at Crestwood.
Lyons, led by Lehmann, downed Mount Carmel 9-1 on Saturday. It’s likely Marist will see Illinois State recruit Heilenbach, who tamed St. Laurence 8-3 on Wednesday.
The good news for Marist is that it will have ace lefty Mike Hearne (9-4) on the bump.
“No, I’m not nervous,” said Hearne, who led Marist past Providence 9-5 on Wednesday. “We’re going to be underdogs. We’re just going to go out there and play hard again.”
Marian, ranked No. 9 in the SouthtownStar preseason poll, entered the playoffs with a less-than-imposing 18-17 mark, including 5-11 in the ESCC. The Spartans trailed Evergreen Park 5-0 in the regional semifinal before rallying for an 8-7 win in eight innings.
The Spartans (22-17) defeated host Lincoln-Way West 11-2 on Saturday to claim the sectional title.
“We had high expectations this season,” Marian Catholic coach Phil Wail said. “It all hit home when we got behind Evergreen Park 5-0 in the first game of the regional and got a walk-off win in the eighth. Then Brett (Lilek) shut out Illiana (4-0) and with the win over Oak Forest reality set in that we could go a long way.”
Taking down Oak Forest on Wednesday in the sectional semifinal was arguably the Spartans’ most impressive win of the postseason. The Spartans trailed 5-4 with Louisville recruit Kyle Funkhouser on the hill for the Bengals. Marian rallied to claim a 7-5 win.
“I was a little worried when we were behind Oak Forest and had to face Funkhouser,” said Marian’s Patrick Swanson, who had three hits and four runs on Saturday. “But when a couple guys put the ball in play against him, our confidence started boosting up. I felt right then we could go a long way.”
Up next is Simeon (31-7) on Monday in a Class 3A supersectional that also will be played at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.
Simeon, which won the Washington Sectional, is led by catcher Blake Hickman. The Wolverines have outscored an underwhelming group of playoff foes 36-2.
Marian will not have lefty Lilek on the mound, at least to start the game. The Arizona State recruit started for the Spartans on Saturday.
“I knew we had it in us. We just had to come together,” Lilek said. “Once we beat (Funkhouser) the other night, we knew no pitcher could stop us. We’ve been in tough situations but I always believed in this team.”
Dick Goss and Josh Krockey
contributed to this story.