There’s one inning St. Francis would love to have back.
Other than that, the Spartans wouldn’t trade a minute of this experience.
Capping the finest season in the baseball program’s history, St. Francis fell 5-0 to Joliet Catholic in the Class 3A state championship game at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
A second-place trophy may not have been the prize St. Francis had in mind heading into Saturday’s final, but the program’s first state trophy is an amazing achievement nonetheless.
“We just kind of fell apart that one inning,” said Spartans senior catcher Brett Jungles, who doubled twice and threw out two runners trying to steal second. “But we’re all happy to be in this position. We’d rather be in this position than lose in the first round of the regional semifinals. I’m proud of everyone.”
Joliet Catholic (25-14) claimed the program’s third state title on the strength of a 5-run bottom of the fourth inning. The Hilltoppers, who sent 10 men to the plate, had 3 hits, but really jumped on a pair of St. Francis (25-12) errors.
A fielder’s choice, wild pitch and an RBI triple by John Kalisik accounted for 3 runs. Infield errors led to the other 2 runs.
Beyond that, St. Francis starter Jason Sullivan (8-2) was solid while allowing just 1 other hit in a 6-inning effort.
“We had the one big inning but their pitcher stepped up and did a real nice job for them the rest of the way,” said Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss. “He kept on hammering the strike zone and made good pitches.”
Joliet Catholic complete-game winner Nick Dalesandro (7-2), a sophomore, dodged danger throughout. St. Francis stranded 10 runners including seven in scoring position.
Nine strikeouts from Dalesandro and an errorless defense helped keep St. Francis off the scoreboard.
“I tried to gain some momentum out there, but that goes all to my defense,” Dalesandro said. “The plays they were making today were unbelievable. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without them.”
St. Francis had runners on second and third in the fourth and fifth inning, but the Spartans’ best scoring chance may have been in the third inning. Alex Alcantara led off by being hit by a pitch and moved to third on a Sullivan sacrifice and Jack Petrando groundout. Josh Croci lined a shot to center field, but Joliet Catholic’s Zach Jackovich made a nice diving catch to end the threat.
The next inning, the Hilltoppers broke through for their 5 runs.
“We’ve got a philosophy of staying out of the big inning, and obviously the only scoring of the whole game was in that one inning,” said St. Francis coach Rich Janor. “It was a bad inning and we never recovered from it.
“We’re really proud of our kids,” he said. “Definitely some lifelong memories were forged here today, and some lifelong friendships throughout the year. Real proud of our seniors and our captains and what we accomplished this year.”
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmitCopyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.