There is a purpose behind Marmion's rugged early season baseball schedule.
Perhaps that is why Cadets coach Dave Rakow took Wednesday afternoon's 4-0 home loss to nonconference power Joliet Catholic in stride.
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"We've got something to build on," said Rakow, whose team was held to 3 base hits -- all singles. "I told our guys that this is one of the better teams in (Class) 3A. We scheduled some really good teams early on, and in the long run it's going to pay dividends for us."
Joliet Catholic (2-0) senior right-hander Chris Blatti earned the victory, tossing 2-hit ball through 6 innings. The St. Francis recruit struck out 5, walked 1, and allowed just 3 batters to reach base during a 74-pitch season debut outing.
"I was very pleased with the way he threw the ball today," said Hilltoppers assistant coach Tony Giese, who was filling in for head coach Jared Voss. "He pounded the zone and the guys picked up the ball behind him. I think you're going to see a lot of that this year."
"He kept us off-balance," Rakow said of Blatti. "He threw strikes, including breaking balls for strikes."
Marmion didn't get its leadoff hitter on base until the seventh when Connor Medernach coaxed a walk from southpaw reliever Matt Testa.
Two outs later, the Cadets finally managed to put 2 runners on base after Andy Young's single but Testa ended the threat by inducing a grounder to shortstop Chris Tschida -- 1 of 10 Marmion groundouts for the day.
"We usually try to play small ball but you can't really bunt and steal if you don't have the leadoff guy on base," said Rakow.
Senior left-hander Shane Cano pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Chris Simon, who gave up 4 runs on 6 hits through the first 2 1/3 frames.
"For giving up 11 hits, I thought our pitchers did a pretty good job of damage control holding them to four runs," said Rakow.
Tschida, who went 3-for-4 and came within a double of hitting for the cycle, blasted a solo home run to lead off the second, and the Hilltoppers scored their second run of the inning on an RBI single from Zack Melone (3-for-3).
In the third, Joliet Catholic added a pair of runs on sacrifice fly balls from Alex Voitik and Brock Pluth.
From there, Cano kept the Hilltoppers off the scoreboard, recording a pair of strikeouts while supported with flawless defense that included shortstop Young and second baseball Mitch Sterne turning a sixth-inning double play.
"We knew they could hit," said Cano. "We got beat 10-0 in 4 ½ innings by them last year so we hung with them this time. If we get the bats going, it's a totally different game."
Alex Troop and Mike Pipp also added singles for the Cadets (1-3), who travel to face Geneva Friday.
"The pitching was good and the fielding was great but the bats just haven't come alive for us yet," said Rakow. "As long as our pitchers can throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground, we'll be in every game. It'll be a matter of whether we hit."