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Baseball: St. Rita tops Minooka 4-2 in state summer quarterfinal

Jake Shepski St. Ritdoubles run against St. Laurence for Reavis Regional Summer State Tournament Reavis High School Thursday July 18th

Jake Shepski, of St. Rita, doubles in a run against St. Laurence for the Reavis Regional Summer State Tournament at Reavis High School, Thursday, July 18th, 2013, in Chicago. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 25, 2013 6:29AM



Jake Shepski let his bat and right arm do the talking Tuesday.

The senior right-hander belted a two-run homer and fired 32/3 innings of scoreless relief to lead St. Rita to a 4-2 win over Minooka in a Phil Lawler Summer Classic quarterfinal at Benedictine University.

A.J. Fuller also slammed a two-run homer, and staff ace Mike Costanzo came on to record the final two outs to garner the save for the Mustangs, who advance to a semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Benedictine.

“We’re coming together,” St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said. “This is a new group, with new guys. There are a lot of different personalities seeing where they fit in. This was a big win for us.”

A sore right arm prevented Shepski from logging many innings during the spring season. The warm summer weather, however, has proved to be the medicine required to return his powerful arm to form.

“The warm weather helps me a little bit,” Shepski said. “I haven’t pitched this much in a long time. The soreness is gone.”

Minooka took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Cole Thompson and Tyler Desmarais coaxed two-out walks off St. Rita starter Matt Ryan. A balk moved both runners up 90 feet, with Thompson scoring on a wild pitch.

The Mustangs took the lead for good in the second inning. After a two-out double by Jake Drada, Fuller crushed a fastball well over the left-field fence for a 2-1 lead.

“Yeah, I knew it was gone,” said Fuller, a senior outfielder. “I was looking for a pitch I could drive, and I got it.”

Shepski gave the Mustangs some breathing room in the third inning, swatting a low-and-in offering from Indians starter Joe Butler over the right-field fence. The two-run homer (with Nate Soria aboard) gave St. Rita a 4-1 lead.

“It was an inside pitch. I hit it good,” said Shepski, a Notre Dame recruit.

When Ryan ran into some trouble in the third, Zunica wasted no time summoning Shepski from the bullpen. He allowed an infield single to Butler that scored Ken Walsh to make it 4-2.

Shepski, though, was extremely stingy from there, allowing three hits and striking out five, including the side in the sixth. When he allowed a one-out single to Cristian Sanchez in the seventh, Zunica called on Costanzo. After getting Thompson on a flyout, Costanzo froze Tyler Desmarais with a blazing fastball to end the game.

“I just came in and did what I can do to help win the game,” said Costanzo, who will start Wednesday’s semifinal. “Just end the game.”

Chris Delgadillo (2-for-3) and Anthony Faron (1-for-2) contributed to St. Rita’s six-hit attack.

The victory allowed the Mustangs to gain a little revenge against Minooka, which upended St. Rita 3-1 in a first-round game Monday. However, Minooka loss to St. Rita on Tuesday was preceded by a 10-0 thumping by Lyons.

Still, it was an extremely productive summer for Minooka, which finished 15-7.

“It was a great summer and I’m very optimistic about this group,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “I can’t wait for next season.”

Shortstop Neal Tyrell, who had three of Minooka’s six hits, made an outstanding barehanded play in the first inning that robbed Soria of a hit.



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