By Marty Maciaszek
Semifinals: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday -- No. 9 Palatine (23-14) vs. No. 4 Warren (21-12); 4:30 p.m. Thursday -- No. 3 Prospect (23-8) vs. No. 7 St. Viator (22-13)
Championship: 11 a.m. Saturday
Palatine vs. Warren: Palatine coach Paul Belo called the matchup "two very balanced teams who are almost mirror images of each other" with their combination of power, team speed and ability to do the little things. Palatine, however, has hit it big like never before with a school-record 33 homers with no holes from SS Cody Bobbit (.378, 6 HR, 30 RBI) at the top to 2B Vince Portera (21 RBI) at the bottom. Junior 3B-P Kurt Becker (.425, 7 HR, 36 RBI) is unlike most No. 2 hitters and Dan Haze (.328, 5 HR, 38 RBI), Jesse Bobbit (.364, 24 RBI), Jim Smearman (.325, 5 HR, 24 RBI), Joe Walsh (.322, 4 HR, 26 RBI), Scott Schneberger (.320, 33 RBI) and Mike Czarnik have fueled Palatine's 12-3 stretch run where two of the losses were in extra innings and the other was by a run.
The Pirates knocked off top-seeded Mundelein 15-4 in 6 innings Saturday and get another North Suburban Lake team in Warren, which saw Valparaiso-bound righty Ryan Kennedy improve to 7-2 with Saturday's regional-final win over Libertyville. Belo said Dayton recruit Kevin Colburn, who homered Saturday, "can change the game with one swing." Junior SS Pat Kenney is also dangerous and Adam Glogovsky's return from injury makes for an even tougher lineup for Palatine senior starter and Roosevelt University-bound righty Alex Miramontes (6-2, 3.48, 52 Ks in 52 IP). The Pirates are making their first sectional appearance since 2001 and their only trip to a sectional final was 1988.
Prospect vs. St. Viator: Both teams have their aces ready in Prospect junior righty Jack Landwehr (11-2, 2.61, 92 Ks, 11 BBs) and St. Viator senior righty Robert Romano (8-3, 1.81, 80 Ks). Prospect beat the Lions and Romano 5-1 on April 2. "It will be a great challenge for us and hopefully our kids rise to it," said Viator coach Mike Manno after his team won back-to-back regional titles for the first time in school history. "They're a potent team but we're excited about the challenge."
The Knights have eight players at .300 or better in Landwehr (.472, 42 RBI), Brian Bauer (.422, 25 RBI), regional final hero Luke Bergman (.420, 5 HR, 21 RBI), Peter Bonahoom (.400, 26 RBI), Matt Molini (.406), Shane Joyce (.338), Brad Gerdes (.322) and Kurt Donner (.308). "It's a very mature group and they know what to do," said Prospect coach Ross Giusti of the Mid-Suburban League champs. "They just don't give up and it's a testament to them." Viator didn't either after a 9-9 start against a rugged schedule with Houston-bound C Cory Kay (.450, 7 HR, 32 RBI) and juniors Cosimo Cannella and Chris Myjak providing plenty of pop while Kole Luthringshausen and Brian Wilhite came through at the bottom of the lineup in the regional semifinals.
"We've been in a lot of close games this year and that's why we won this regional," Manno said. "We benefitted from playing a tough schedule." Viator's only sectional final trip was in 1965 when it took second in the state; Prospect made sectional finals in 1987 and 2006.
Advancement: Sectional champion goes to the Rockford Riverhawks supersectional at 4:30 p.m. Monday against the Glenbrook South champion.
At Glenbrook South
Semifinals: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday -- No. 1 Leyden (27-5) vs. No. 4 New Trier (25-10); 4:30 p.m. Thursday -- No. 2 Glenbrook North (31-3) vs. No. 10 Loyola (16-18).
Championship: 10 a.m. Saturday
Leyden vs. New Trier: Leyden finally found out who it would be playing today when New Trier won its rain-delayed regional 13-3 in 6 innings over Niles West on Tuesday. But playing the perennially powerful Trevians doesn't figure to faze the Eagles, who saw a late-season 3-game sweep to 32-4 Lyons Township as a blessing in disguise. "It definitely got us tourney-ready," said Leyden coach Gary Wolf. "You hate to lose three in a row but they're a great team and we went head-to-head with them in almost every game of the series. We found out we could play with anybody. We answered that question."
Louisiana-Monroe bound Justin Stawychny (6-1, 1.45, 55 Ks in 43⅓ IP) will start with Angel Sanchez (6-1, 1.94) ready and Eric Palmer (5-1, 1.27, 61 Ks) possibly available after throwing only 5 innings Monday. Stawychny (.380, 6 HR, 34 RBI), Palmer (.368, 3 HR, 29 RBI), SS Carlos Olavarria (.410, 4 HR, 27 RBI), John Marino (6 HR, 38 RBI), Nick Dimaso (.333, 28 RBI), Adrian Ruiz (.354) and Eli Perez (.311, 4 HR) lead a potent offense. New Trier features Illinois-bound OF and potential high draft pick Charlie Tilson along with cleanup man Eric West (7 HR, 49 RBI) for coach Mike Napoleon, who won his 700th career game this season.
Glenbrook North vs. Loyola: On paper it looks like a mismatch but Loyola is dangerous after playing a tough Catholic League schedule and has well-rested pitchers in junior lefty Jack Richmond and sophomore lefty Danny Rafferty. Richmond threw a 3-hit shutout against Notre Dame in the regional semifinals and Rafferty had a career-high 13 strikeouts in Saturday's win over Glenbrook South. It's been a magical head coaching debut at Glenbrook North for Dominic Savino, who was a Daily Herald All-Area infielder at Elk Grove in the early 1990s. Lefty Sean Thomas improved to 7-1 with a 5-hitter in the regional semis and Louisiana-Monroe bound ace Alex Hermeling had 10 Ks in Monday's 6-2 win over Maine South. Chad Bruce and Brett Synek at the top of the order are part of a powerful and athletic lineup and Jack Day has been a clutch hitter for the Spartans.
Advancement: Sectional champion goes to the Rockford Riverhawks supersectional at 4:30 p.m. Monday against the Barrington champion.