It was cops and robbers as Fremd edged St. Viator 1-0 Friday at the St. Viator regional in Arlington Heights.
Fremd pitcher Jon Escobar handcuffed St. Viator while Austin Jetel stole home in the first inning as the Vikings (20-9) advanced to Saturday's regional title game against Buffalo Grove at 1 p.m.
"It was a great baseball game," Fremd coach Chris Piggott said. "I thought both pitchers pitched great. They were both in tough situations and they made pitches to get themselves out of it."
Both Escobar and St. Viator's Patrick Martin were at the top of their game. Escobar scattered 3 hits and fanned 4, while Martin struck out nine and allowed 6 hits.
"I thought both guys pitched awesome today," St. Viator coach Mike Manno said. "It was a great game, just a tough way to lose."
Escobar began the season as the team's closer. After some struggles in that role, he was moved to the starting rotation. He has won his won all 3 of his starts to go 3-0 for the year.
"I felt I could help us win some games," said Escobar, who will play at Holy Cross next year. "I got clutch plays when I needed it and my defense came though for me."
"He does a great job of opening," Piggott said. "He has had a nice year on the mound. He challenges hitters and doesn't walk a lot of guys, and he battles out there."
Meanwhile, it was ironic that one of Martin's 9 strikeouts came back to haunt him and produce the game's only run.
With two out, Martin got Fremd's Austin Jetel to swing at a pitch that was way outside. The ball went to the backstop and Jetel beat the throw to first.
"There was no time to just stand there," Jetel said. "I knew we needed that run, so I hustled to first."
Sam Beutler followed with a single to right, and Jetel scampered to third. Then, with two strikes on Marcus Middlebrook, Beutler took a longer lead than usual at first. Martin, who is a lefthander and focused on Beutler, didn't see Jetel slowing walking down the third base line. Jetel then broke into a complete sprint and scored standing up.
"I got to third base and coach made the call," Jetel said. "Our guy on first got off the bag and their pitcher, a lefty, just looked at him. So I just took off."
"We had the right combination of guys on the bases," Piggott said. "A lot of times, that lefty won't look at that runner on third when you walk off of first. And it worked this time."
Both teams had later opportunities to score. But both pitchers were able to settle down thanks to some terrific defense behind them.
St. Viator (19-13) opened the fourth with a double by Roy Pettingill and a walk to Joe Rossi. But Escobar got an easy fly out and then a double play to end the inning.
In the next inning, the Lions' Mike McGrath singled and pinch runner Matt O'Neill stole second and went to third on an infield out. Escobar got another lazy flyball to end the inning.
Fremd had its chances as well.
Matt Isola, who had 2 hits, led off the fifth with a single. Isola then went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Andrew Stark. Isola then could have scored on Jetel's hit up the middle, but a diving stop by St. Viator second baseman Andrew Ferrante kept the ball in the infield and Isola at third. Martin got a comebacker and a strikeout to end that threat.
In the Fremd sixth, Escobar reached on a hit batter and Randy Wilt followed with a single. A passed ball moved both runners along and after a strikeout, Martin gave way to Gunnar Kay. Facing Isola, Kay got a pop out to end the inning.
The Lions had one last chance in the seventh when Charlie Meyer reached on an error with one out. Pinch runner Matt Darling advanced to second on a wild pitch. But Escobar ended the threat by not allowing a ball out of the infield for the complete game shutout.
"We just couldn't get the big hit when we had guys on base," Manno said. "I feel bad for our seniors. They did a great job for us all year."