Baseball: Marian completes journey, claims Class 3A championship
By Pat Disabato email@example.com June 9, 2012 9:02PM
Marian Catholic's baseball team celebrates after winning the Class 3A state baseball title. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Games at Silver Cross Field, Joliet
Championship: Oak Park-River
Forest 4, Lyons 3
Third place: Grant 7, Minooka 1
Oak Park-River Forest 8, Grant 2
Lyons 6, Minooka 2
Games at Silver Cross Field, Joliet
Championship: Marian 10,
Third place: Nazareth 2,
Troy Triad 1
LaSalle Peru 5, Troy Triad 2
Marian Catholic 3, Nazareth 0
Updated: August 9, 2012 2:51AM
When the Class 3A playoffs began, Marian Catholic, at 18-17, was one of the longest of long shots to complete the arduous journey to a state championship.
Seven straight victories later, the Spartans are just that — state champions.
Marian Catholic capped off an improbable playoff journey Saturday, blistering LaSalle-Peru 10-2 at Silver Cross Field.
Marian stuck with the winning formula of timely hitting, good pitching and solid defense to overwhelm the Cavaliers, who finished 34-7.
The state championship is the first in the baseball program’s history.
“We came through with the big hits when we needed them and capitalized on their mistakes,” Marian coach Phil Wail said. “This is the third game in a row without an error.”
Marian (25-17) put the game out of reach in the third inning. That’s when the Spartans sent 11 batters to the plate, with eight coming around to score.
The outburst turned a 1-1 tie into a commanding 9-1 lead.
The Spartans registered five hits in the inning, with Brett Lilek and Brent Feldner contributing clutch two-run doubles. Both drives split the gap in right-center field.
Brad Bohlen, Patrick Schmidt and Rob Cifelli (2-for-4) joined in the fun, adding RBI singles, and Luiscarlo Avila produced a sacrifice fly in the third.
LaSalle, however, did itself no favors by committing two errors in the inning, leading to eight unearned runs, and four miscues for the game.
“I had good pre-game batting practice both days,” said Lilek, who was 2-for-3 Saturday and 4-for-5 with three RBI in the state tournament. “I was hitting balls good to center field. It’s a good hitting background here.”
There was no way Marian pitcher Ben Santori was going to allow the Cavaliers back in the game, though he did allow a tape-measure homer to Casey Huebbe in the sixth to make it 10-2.
Santori (4-2) escaped jams in the third and fifth innings, getting No. 3 hitter Cody Booker, hitting .452, to roll into double plays twice.
“We had a big lead, but you can’t relax in this atmosphere,” said Santori, who scattered 11 hits, walked none and struck out five. “I was concentrating on throwing strikes and trying to get ground balls. I know when the ball is hit on the ground, the defense makes the play.”
Marian added a solo tally in the fourth. Swanson (2-for-3) reached on an infield single and Devin Pickett blooped a double down the right -field line to put runners on second and third base. Bohlen’s sacrifice fly brought home Swanson for a 10-1 advantage.
“Ben pitched a great game,” Wail said. “He has the most appearances on our team. He’s been very consistent all year.”
Marian wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Cifelli started the game with an infield single and stole second base — his 54th of the season. Swanson followed with a single to right field, plating Cifelli for a 1-0 lead.
It was a short-lived advantage, however. LaSalle-Peru countered with a solo run in its half of the first on a run-scoring single by Levi Ericson to knot the game 1-1.
“I was just trying to get on base and set the tone,” said Cifelli, a center fielder who was named defensive player of the year in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. “That’s what the coaches told me. Set the tone and we’ll go with you.”