While Marmion didn't get the 10-run win it was looking for in the Class 3A Rochelle sectional semifinals, the Cadets did just enough to get themselves back in a familiar spot -- their third sectional championship game appearance in four years.
Cadets coach Dave Rakow was hoping for the quick win to try and save his ace Tim Tarter. Instead, the Hubs pushed the Cadets to the final out, when Tarter finished his complete game by striking out Eric Duthie with runners at second and third base in the seventh inning for a 2-1 victory.
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Marmion (21-8) will play Kaneland (22-10) in the sectional championship Saturday with the start time moved up to 10 a.m. due to the Knights' 3 p.m. graduation. Rochelle ended its season at 10-19.
"Honestly we wanted to come out and beat them in 5 or 6, keep Timmy's pitch count low," Cadets catcher Kyle Kozak said. "That didn't happen. We came out with a win, we batted, we fought."
Tarter threw 97 pitches in improving his perfect record to 10-0. He allowed only 4 hits, 3 walks and no earned runs. He struck out five despite pitching with a blister on his left middle finger caused in part from his nerves earlier this week taking placement tests at UIC.
"I was nibbling on my fingers because I was a little nervous (taking the tests). That wasn't smart on my part," said Tarter, who nonetheless managed to keep the Hubs in check.
"I was keeping everything low, tried to keep it low and away. That (blister) was hurting the whole game. I felt like I hit my locations today rather than rely on my fastball."
Marmion scored single runs in the second and third innings to lead 2-0 into the sixth when the Hubs plated their only run on a dropped fly in center field.
In the seventh, Rochelle started its rally with a hit batter. On a bloop to shallow right, Marmion right fielder Mike Pipp couldn't quite make a diving catch, but alertly picked up the ball and threw to second base for a force out.
Lucas Winebaugh doubled to put runners at second and third with 2 outs before Tarter fanned Duthie on 3 pitches -- leaving NIU-bound power hitter Michael McCulloch in the on-deck circle.
"I thought this would pretty much make or break the game so I went right after him," Tarter said.
The Cadets grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second on a rally Tarter started with an infield single. An error and a walk to Tyler Friel loaded the bases for shortstop Andrew Young, who brought in the first run with a groundout to short.
Mitch Sterne was hit by a pitch to lead off the third. Jordan Meyer singled and Kozak found a hole between third and short for an RBI single and 2-0 lead.
That would be it against Rochelle starter Sean Hudson (3-8). Normally a team that sprays line drives and hard grounders, Marmion uncharacteristically hit 5 fly ball and pop-up outs.
Kozak and Young both had 2 hits to lead Marmion's offense, which only managed 6 singles in the game.
"We hit a lot of fly balls today," Kozak said. "Our approach is always not to hit a lot of fly balls. We put up 13 runs against Hampshire and hit no fly balls. I don't know if it was short fences or the wind blowing out, but we have to focus on going up the middle."
Rakow said Tarter normally throws 84, 85 miles an hour but was a little off that Thursday. Tarter held McCulloch hitless in his first 2 at-bats, including a strikeout, before Rakow elected to walk the slugger intentionally in the sixth. The move worked when Hudson followed with his second deep fly out to the warning track.
"We wanted to set up the force and we knew he (McCulloch) was their best hitter," Rakow said.
Now comes a sectional championship between two local teams that normally play in a nonconference game (this year's game was rained out), and two coaches who grew up playing at about the same time in Batavia and Geneva, respectively.
Both teams also are going for their first sectional title. Marmion lost to DeKalb in last year's sectional final.
Marmion knows it can play better than it did Thursday. The Cadets will send Friel to the mound against Kaneland's Bobby Thorson.
"We didn't hit real well," Kozak said. "We'll have to take BP tomorrow and come and hit better against Kaneland. We're not going to win playing like that."