Beyond the numbers on the scoreboard, you couldn't ask for much more from St. Francis' baseball team on Monday.
The Spartans fell shy of their state title dreams with a 5-4 loss to Nazareth in the Class 3A North Central College supersectional in Naperville.
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Nazareth (34-5), after losing in the supersectional game the last two seasons at North Central, takes its own shot at history this weekend when the Roadrunners face Oak Forest in the 3A semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
"Baseball's a game of inches, and we feel like we were right there," said Spartans coach Rich Janor. "Nazareth was real resilient today. They battled back, and you've got to give them credit."
St. Francis (25-13), on the heels of winning the program's first sectional title on Saturday, staked Butler-bound pitcher Eric Stout to a 4-0 lead in the third inning. Two runs scored on passed balls while Jack Petrando and Joel Birch contributed RBI singles in the Spartans' 3-run third.
Stout, meanwhile, did a great job dodging trouble through three scoreless innings.
"I just wanted to lay it all out on the field," Stout said. "We're happy but not satisfied. We definitely wish we would have come out with a win, but we had a great season. We made school history, so we're proud of that."
Nazareth pulled within 4-1 in the top of the fourth inning on an error, and tied it in the fifth. After Michael Barajas came through with a huge 2-run triple, he scored on Anthony Baldassano's suicide squeeze bunt.
"Of course you're going to have a little butterflies when you're down 4-0, but we stayed focused," Barajas said. "We know we've worked hard. If we played our game, things would fall our way."
Nazareth scored the winning run in the sixth inning after Stout recorded two quick outs. Two hit batters led to Kane Lombardo's RBI single that just slipped past Birch diving at shortstop.
With the 5-4 lead Nazareth turned to its ace, Ryan Powers, in relief with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Powers escaped a first-and-second jam, and then sent the Spartans down in order in the seventh to secure his fourth save.
"I knew I had to get myself ready in case I was needed for today," said Powers, who started the sectional final on Saturday. "We're just hoping we're not done yet. Hopefully we can win these next two games and bring home the big trophy."