The lure of hardware can do wonders for an up-and-down baseball team.
For all the inconsistencies IC Catholic Prep endured in the regular season, the Knights put themselves in position to win a regional title with Thursday's 6-2 victory over Lisle in the Class 2A Westmont regional semifinals.
IC Catholic Prep (13-19) will face the host Sentinels (19-16) in the regional championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
"We're motivated but we're taking it game by game," said Knights designated hitter Griffen Eichhorn. "We're not looking too far ahead. We wanted to come out here and get this one. We've been practicing hard all week and we were looking forward to winning this game."
The Knights managed all the offense they needed with a 3-run bottom of the first inning. C.J. West drove in the first run with a fielder's choice, and John Hoffman followed with a 2-run double.
Winning pitcher Brendan Russ dodged damage in each of the first three innings and cruised through the fourth thanks to a double play. Russ pitched 5⅔ innings before West notched the final four outs, including a game-ending double play.
Lisle stranded four runners in scoring position in the first three innings, and the inability to chip away early proved costly when Eichhorn's 2-run homer in the fourth boosted the Knights' lead to 6-0.
"When you have opportunities to chip away, you need to chip," said Lisle coach Pete Meyer. "And we didn't do that. We didn't get a big hit when we needed it. We really felt like we were ready for the playoffs, but in our regional you've got to be on top of your game."
Lisle (12-19) broke through with a run in the fifth on Emmett Malavia's sacrifice fly and pulled within 6-2 in the sixth on Max Sokolowski's RBI double.
"Getting those early runs was big for us," said IC Catholic Prep coach Frank DeAngelis, whose team lost 6-5 to Westmont in March. "We were able to tack on, and that's something we need to be better at. It was good to see us get those extra three runs."
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