Downers Grove South's baseball team knew it could play with anyone.
On Monday the Mustangs nearly proved they can beat anyone.
Downers South broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth inning, but favored St. Rita scored twice in the bottom of the inning to pull out a 2-1 victory in the Class 4A Standard Bank Stadium supersectional in Crestwood.
In its third state semifinal appearance St. Rita (36-4) aims to stay on track for the program's first state title. The Mustangs face South Elgin, a 7-6 winner over Evanston, at 5 p.m. Friday at Joliet's Silver Cross Field.
"We wanted it more than anything, and we left it on the field," said Downers South senior shortstop Joe Becht. "It just didn't happen tonight."
Downers South (28-9) starter Danny Spinuzza and Notre Dame-bound counterpart Jake Shepski dueled through five scoreless innings before Downers South finally broke through with a run in the top of the sixth on Danny Oriente's RBI double.
Zac Taylor scored the run when he walked, stole second and moved to third on an obstruction call against St. Rita during a rundown. Downers South had the bases loaded with one out but couldn't scratch across an insurance run.
That inability to convert came back to haunt Downers South in the bottom of the inning when St. Rita tied it on Shane Peisker's RBI single off Spinuzza. Two intentional walks from reliever Ryan Taylor loaded the bases and, after a fielder's choice, a two-out wild pitch put St. Rita ahead 2-1.
"We put everything out there and the cards didn't fall our way," Spinuzza said. "This is a great group of guys and I'm going to miss them. It was a memorable season."
St. Rita's momentum carried Shepski through the seventh inning. He sent down the bottom third of Downers South's lineup in order to end the game.
"We looked each other in the eye and there was no way we were going to give up because of one lousy run," Shepski said. "We worked way too hard for all this. There's no way we're going to let our season end with a loss."
St. Rita managed only 1 hit in the first five innings, but still had the game's best scoring chance to that point in the third. St. Rita had runners on second and third with one out, but a fly out to Matt Zinnecker in right field turned into an inning-ending double play when Zinnecker nailed the runner at home trying to tag up.
The play epitomized Downers South's gritty run to the second sectional title in program history.
"We were a hit short there, that's what it comes down to," said Downers South coach Darren Orel. "It's just one of those good baseball games. It's one of the better ones I've been around in my 16 years at Downers South."
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