Baseball: St. Rita two wins away from goal
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org June 12, 2014 11:06PM
Mike Costanzo, of St. Rita, delivers a pitch against Mount Carmel for the 4A Softball Reavis Sectional Championship. Saturday, June 7th, 2014, in Burbank. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
(at Silver Cross Field, Joliet)
vs. Prairie Ridge, 3 p.m.
St. Rita vs. South Elgin, 5 p.m.
Third-place game, 3 p.m.
Championship, 5:30 p.m.
Updated: July 14, 2014 6:37AM
From the first day of practice, St. Rita has had one goal: to win a state championship.
The Mustangs find themselves on the doorstep — two victories — from achieving their lofty ambition.
“Absolutely, this is a team that’s built to win a state championship,” St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said. “But we have to play better than we’ve been playing. We need to execute our game plan better. The kids have to go out and do it.”
The Mustangs’ (36-4) first order of business is a Class 4A state semifinal game vs. South Elgin (24-10) at 5 p.m. on Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
This is St. Rita’s fifth trip to the state finals under Zunica, with previous visits in 2004, ’07, ’09, ’10.
The Mustangs, however, have yet to bring home the top prize, settling for runner-up status in ’09 and ’10.
“This team is as good as any team we’ve had in the past,” Zunica said.”The coaches have been there before, but these kids haven’t. This is their time.”
St. Rita’s line-up is without weakness, boasting tremendous speed at the top of the order in Danny Gleaves (.541, 46 runs) and Shane Peisker (.374, 34 runs), dangerous middle-of-the-order run-producers in Jake Shepski (.405, 48 RBI), Tyler Halas (.355, 36 RBI) and Nick Goldsmith (.413, 46 RBI), and scrappy contact hitters in Nate Soria, Marty Bechina and Chris Delgadillo.
Runs, however, have been hard to come by during the postseason for the Mustangs, who have scored a total of eight the past three games and have tallied more than five just once during this five-game playoff jaunt.
“We have to put the ball in play more,” Zunica said. “We have to play with confidence and play tough.”
Zunica will hand the ball to ace left-hander Mike Costanzo (10-2,1.64), a three-year varsity starter, on Friday.
Costanzo has made it clear the Mustangs won’t be satisfied unless they return to 77th and Western Avenue, with the 4A state trophy.
“That’s all we’ve been focused on,” Costanzo said. “It’s not about getting to state. It’s about winning it all.”
South Elgin doesn’t match the firepower of St. Rita’s lineup. The Storm line-up is void of a .400 hitter and has recorded six homers as a team.
Justin Bryski (.394) is its top hitter, while the biggest run producers are Antonio Danesi (.322) and Ryan Nutof (.320, 4 HR) with 21 RBI apiece.
Pitching is South Elgin’s strength, led by Nutof (8-0, 0.39), Max Keough (5-1, 1.66) and Tyler Brown (5-3, 2.35).
“We know they’re going to be scrappy and tough,” Zunica said. “We assume we’re going to meet some adversity, whether it’s going up early or blowing a lead. We’ll have to meet it and handle it.”