Baseball: 'An amazing feeling': Montini is state champion

Eleven losses later, Montini's far from a perfect baseball team.

The Broncos just do a terrific impression.

Another flawless all-around performance powered Montini to the program's first state championship with Saturday's stunning 6-3 victory over St. Laurence in the Class 3A final at Joliet's DuPage Medical Group Field.

Shortly after an April loss to the Vikings (35-6), the Broncos (23-11) fell to 8-8 on the season. At some point, though, something clicked.

“At the beginning of the season, we thought this was our year and we really had a chance,” said Montini shortstop Justin Lazowski. “We knew we had the talent and the skill. Everyone just did their part, and that's how you win a state championship.”

Everything came together this weekend in Joliet. There was clutch hitting throughout the lineup, from Antoine Harris at the top to Ryan Nelson in the middle, all the way to Rocco Catalano and Estevan Moreno in the bottom third.

Lazowski — with 9 assists — led an errorless defense for a second straight day.

None of it, though, mattered without the complete-game pitching performances from juniors Michael Sclafani and Michael Koszewski. In the title game Koszewski retired the last eight batters he faced to send the team into a raucous celebration.

“The energy was flowing,” Koszewski said. “The emotions were definitely flowing. I was ready to get those final three outs. To see us get that last out was just awesome. An amazing feeling.”

Koszewski settled down after a rough first inning when the Broncos fell behind 2-0. Antoine Harris doubled in a run and Nate Kremkow's squeeze bunt tied it 2-2 in the top of the third.

Like so many times before the last few weeks, the game shifted in Montini's favor at that point.

“The confidence just kept going up and up (throughout this season),” Catalano said. “Not only are we proving people wrong at this point, but we have that drive of finishing on top. That's what we accomplished.”

Catalano gave his team a 3-2 fourth-inning lead with an RBI single. St. Laurence tied it in the bottom of the inning, but Montini exploded for 3 runs in the sixth.

Catalano doubled in 2 runs and Moreno followed with an RBI single.

With only three seniors in Saturday's starting lineup — Lazowski, Nelson and Ben Lah — the Broncos aren't going anywhere talent-wise.

Nothing, however, will top what four classes of Montini baseball players accomplished together this season.

“The kids are just tough, tough kids,” said Montini coach Rich Janor. “It all just kind of came together. We got hot at the right time and were able to ride it all the way to this moment.”

Twitter: @kevin_schmit

Images: Montini vs. St. Laurence, Class 3A State Championship in Baseball. Montini won 6-3

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