Baseball: St. Viator's record-setting season comes to surprise end
It was a hard end to one of the most successful season's in St. Viator baseball history Saturday.
Crystal Lake South built a 5-0 lead and the Gators held off a late St. Viator rally to eliminate the Lions 5-2 in the Class 3A sectional final at Grayslake Central.
Crystal Lake South (18-13), which won its second sectional title in school history, will meet Fenwick in the supersectional Monday at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg at 5 p.m. Fenwick defeated Notre Dame 5-3 to advance.
The Viator loss ended a record-setting season for the Lions (35-3), which set a school record for victories in season. They also won their first East Suburban Conference title since 2002.
"This time of the year it is tough," St. Viator coach Mike Manno said. "A couple of mistakes. I told them from day one that the result doesn't matter. When you put that much time into together and actually care about each other, that is the thing we are all going to remember.
"All the school records they have broken this year and a conference title. Nobody can take that away from them. One game did not define who we were this year."
The loss was even more gut wrenching for St. Viator baseball, when after the game, Manno officially announced that he was stepping down as head coach. Manno will be taking a new position as athletic director at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.
Manno leaves after 15 seasons as head coach of the Lions. His teams won a state title in 2017 and was fourth in 2016. They won 10 regional titles, including 9 in the last 12 years.
"It is a tough way to end," Manno said. "I would not have wanted to end my career with any other group. This has been the most enjoyable group I have ever coached and it has nothing to do with wins. Just their character and dedication to work with each other on an off the field. They are just a class act."
After both teams were stymied over the first three innings, Crystal Lake South struck first, scoring three runs after two were out.
Ryan Skwarek, who reached on a fielder's choice, stole second. After a walk to Joey McEnery, Kyle Kuffel singled to right to make it 1-0 with McEnery to third and Kuffel, who had two hits on the day, moving up to second on a bad throw.
Mark DeCicco, who pitched five-plus solid innings for the Gators, followed with a single to right, just inside the line, scoring a pair to make it 3-0.
The Gators added a pair more in the sixth. DiCicco drove in Skwarek, who had doubled. McEnery, who had reached earlier on walk, would later score on a bases-loaded walk.
St. Viator appeared to be just about finished when the first two batters struck out to lead off the sixth. But not quite.
Zan Von Schlegell belted a solo homer. Dominick McKevitt, who was robbed of home run in the second inning by the Gators' James Carlson, singled and stole second. He would then score on Joe Bollard's single to cut the margin to 5-2.
After a walk, James Allie came on in relief. He would strike out the next batter to end the threat.
Allie would give up a two-out double in the seventh, but hung on after a fly out ended the game.
"This team, we fought all year together," said Casey Hintz, who was 9-0 this past season and will play at Arizona next season.
"We are like brothers to each other every day. No one was into this for themselves and we all knew that."
Anthony Pluta, who will also play at Arizona next season, said the Lions worked hard all season.
"The amount of work and effort that this group put in was unparalleled," Pluta said. "This is just a real tough way to go out."