Dave Colbert and Christian Liberty came up with a couple of firsts Saturday at the Class 1A regional final at Morgan Park Academy in Chicago.
Colbert, a senior, threw his first complete game to lead the Chargers to the program's first baseball regional title with a 5-0 masterpiece over Morgan Park Academy.
Christian Liberty (13-12) will meet Grant Park on Wednesday in the sectional semifinals at Gardner-South Wilmington.
"It is really exciting," said Christian Liberty coach Jed Bennett, who is in his third year as head coach. "The five seniors on this team (Dan Glad, Juan Pagan, J.P. Dunlinsky, Shawn Andersen and Colbert ) have been starters since they were freshmen. They took their beating back then, but kept coming back. They are finally seeing the fruits of what they have been working for."
Colbert, who has pitched sparingly over those years due to injuries, never looked better. After he picked up a save in the Chargers' 3-0 victory last Wednesday against St. Benedict, Colbert scattered just 5 hits Saturday while striking out two.
"I got hurt a couple years ago and to be able to go 7 innings to win a championship means a lot to me," said Colbert, who threw 86 pitches, 52 for strikes. "I really felt comfortable with my defense out there. They were great out there. I knew what to do. Even with guys on base, I wasn't nervous."
"Every time we have put him into a game this year he has been fine," Bennet said. "We have been saving him for that big game, pitching him just enough so he his ready, but not so much that he ruins his arm."
Christian Liberty's defense was solid, with Colbert leading the way, snaring a line drive in the third inning and then doubling off the runner at first to end MPA's only threat in the third inning. The Chargers also received great defensive efforts by Aaron Karr, Pagan, Dan Glad, Pete Grob, Aaron Cunningham, Dunlinsky, Brennan Brosnan and Andersen, who threw out a base runner attempting to steal.
"It is really exciting to win after almost four years of losing," said Andersen. "And our defense was perfect. And two shutouts in a row is really nice to have."
Colbert got all the runs he needed when Christian Liberty struck for 4 runs in the second.
The Chargers loaded the bases on a walk to Andersen, Grob, who reached on an error, and a walk to Tim Laskowski. Dunlinsky then lined a single to right to score two. Karr (3-for-4, 3 RBI) then followed with a double and the Chargers were off and running.
"I found my swing later in the year," said Karr, who was hit by a baseball in the eye in mid April and now wears a mask for protection. "I am used to the mask now. It is so exciting to have an opportunity to play in the sectionals."
Christian Liberty scratched out another run in the third. Andersen doubled and was replaced by runner Jimmy Calkins. He then advanced to third on Pagan's bunt and scored on Grob's infield single.
The Chargers then put the game away when Karr tripled on a long hit to left, scoring Grob, who'd reached on a dropped-third strikeout.
"It was just a solid effort," Bennett said. "We have been working on this all year. And it happened."