It was a disappointing end to an unexpectedly successful baseball season for St. Viator on Wednesday.
The Lions had just dropped a 7-2 decision to top-seeded Libertyville in the sectional semifinal at Glenbrook South. But instead of tears, there was an aura of satisfaction from a St. Viator team that many didn't think would be able to compete on a daily basis this year.
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Instead, the Lions went 23-15 and won their fourth regional title in the last five years. But like those three previous regional winners, St. Viator was not able to capture a sectional victory.
"This was definitely the team that you did not want to play to get over the hump in the sectional," St. Viator coach Mike Manno said. "We had their pitcher on the ropes early, but we stopped.
"But our group has done an unbelievable job this year. I couldn't be prouder. I don't think the score was really indicative of the game."
The Lions had touched Jack Barton for 2 runs in the the top of the first, forcing the Libertyville ace to throw 29 pitches. But Barton settled down, keeping St. Viator off the board from there.
Despite the loss, St. Viator seniors Matt Prazuch, Bobby Calmeyn, Jack Napoleon, Pete Meyer, Joe Brandt, Jack McNamara, Jack McElroy and Mike Piet were able to make the season a strong one.
"We just wanted to keep proving the critics wrong," said Prazuch, who was the lead-off hitter. "We bonded with the juniors on our spring trip to North Carolina, and it stuck. We were close all year."
Calmeyn said that bond is what carried the Lions all season.
"We battled all year with these guys," said Calmeyn, who will play football at Indiana State next year. "It is hard to walk away from all of them. But I think we have set things up for the future."
Manno said that this senior leadership is what has carried this team.
"As the season wound on, their expectations and our expectation grew," Manno said. "Hats off to our guys. They worked their butts off to get to this spot."
And the Lions look to build off this success for next season. They return three starters in Ben Dickey, shortstop Kevin Monson and starting pitcher George Burny.
The seniors really set a platform for us for next year," said Dickey, who had 49 stolen bases in 50 attempts this year. "This is one of the best we have had in the school's history. We hope to do something special next year."
Darling says he is looking forward to next season.
"It is disappointing today," said Darling. "The seniors were fantastic. We built a team that was just wonderful throughout the season and hopefully carry on for next season."
Manno says that the senior carryover is why his team has had all the success it has had the last few years.
"I think our seniors do a good job of laying a foundation," Manno said. "This team was especially good at that and that is why we did so well. I am going to miss them."