Baseball: Hampshire's historic season ends with 4th place in state
The Hampshire baseball team lost Saturday's Class 4A third-place game to St. Rita in the most un-Hampshire way possible.
Defense was largely responsible for getting the Whip-Purs to the state finals for the first time. They were charged with only one error in sectional play, one in the supersectional and one in a state semifinal Friday.
Moreover, they had been making the diving, leaping grabs and long throws look routine.
Hampshire had played 6⅔ error-free innings against the Mustangs, but a throwing error brought the greatest postseason ride in program history to a sudden end with a 3-2 loss.
The game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh when Hampshire right-handed starting pitcher Matt Jachec hit Chris McDevitt with a pitch. He was at second with one out when Jalen Greer grounded to third baseman Anthony DiMarzio, who threw across the diamond to get the out.
McDevitt made a beeline for third base when DiMarzio released the throw to first. Hampshire first baseman Nick Sladek fired the ball back to DiMarzio, but the throw was wide and into the sliding runner. It sailed down the line and McDevitt scored easily to seal third place for St. Rita (35-7).
"That's baseball," Hampshire coach Frank Simoncelli said of the ironic ending. "It happened. We got a little uncharacteristic as far as this playoff run with them playing lights out. We tried to make a play. It didn't work. It didn't happen. It worked out in their favor and that's just how it ended."
Hampshire lost despite another strong performance from Jachec (7-4). He pitched all 6⅔ innings, struck out 6 and walked 2. Two of the 3 4th runs he allowed were earned on 8 hits, the most hits he allowed in a game all year.
"The zone was tight and I had to make a couple of pitches over the middle and they got hits," Jachec said. "I had my stuff but I had to get it over the plate a lot and they're a good-hitting team."
Hampshire (22-16) grabbed a 2-0 first-inning lead on a triple by Caden Pyszka that eluded the diving left fielder.
Otherwise, the Whip-Purs were held in check by four St. Rita pitchers who allowed a total of 5 hits and 2 walks and struck out five.
The state trophy is the first for the Hampshire baseball program. The players enjoyed every minute of the unexpected postseason run to Joliet because it meant more time together as a team.
"It's just a great group of guys," Jachec said. "We've been like a family. We all love each other."
Saturday's loss did not diminish the experience of playing in Joliet for the first time, according to Simoncelli.
"It's the experience of a lifetime," he said. "I'm super proud of these guys. They played with their hearts and that's kind of the model we've been going with all year: Do everything you can to win that ballgame, have some fun, play with your hearts. And that's what they did every single game here down at state."