Baseball: Prairie Ridge eliminates St. Viator in sectional final
The running men are still alive.
Prairie Ridge used its speed and aggressiveness on the bases to sneak past St. Viator 3-2 in a Class 3A baseball sectional final Friday in Arlington Heights.
Prairie Ridge (17-13) advances to Monday's supersectional at 5 p.m. at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg. The Wolves will meet St. Francis, which beat Ridgewood 12-2 Friday.
The last two weeks have been a complete turnaround for Prairie Ridge, which has won five in a row. The Wolves struggled at the beginning of the season but found themselves just at the right time.
"We started the year and it was rough," Prairie Ridge coach Glenn Pecoraro said. "We were below .500 when the seedings came out. I knew this group had it in them."
The Wolves took advantage of 4 St. Viator errors to earn their third sectional title in school history.
"I thought both teams were overly prepared to play each other," said St. Viator coach Mike Manno, whose team picked three runners off the basepaths.
"I told my kids that the team that executes more and makes the least mistakes was going to end up winning. And that was them today."
Three of those errors came in the first inning when the Wolves scored two of their runs.
Alex Milone singled and went to second on an errant pickoff throw. He then scored when Owen Brock singled and the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Ryan Gregorio, who was a courtesy runner for Brock, would later score on a fielder's choice by Matt Porter.
Wolves pitcher Trace Vrbancic, who is a sophomore, kept the Lions at bay. He had just 1 strikeout, but thanks to the solid fielding by Prairie Ridge, gave up just 1 run in nearly five innings of pitching.
"This was a big moment for me," Vrbancic said. "I came out and did a great job. My defense helped out a ton."
Viator scored in the second. Nick Conenna singled and courtesy runner Josh Nelson scored on a sacrifice fly by Chase Carroll that made it 2-1.
Prairie Ridge scored the eventual winning run thanks to some heads up baserunning by Dylan Bremer in the fourth. Bremer singled and went to second on another bad pickoff throw. He was at second base and scored from there on a dropped third strike.
"I saw the ball go back to the backstop," Bremer said. "I looked at my coach and he sent me. So I went for the plate and I got there."
Pecoraro was not slowing Bremer down.
"We were aggressive there and took a chance," Pecoraro said. "I had no idea if he would make it and we were fortunate enough to make it. In a close game that play could make a difference."
St. Viator (24-12-2) cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth. Dennis Ratzki singled and advanced on a trio of wild pitches to score.
The Lions had opportunities to score in the last two innings. They had runners on first and second with one out in each of the innings. But Prairie Ridge relief pitchers Nathan Koteras and Bremer were each able to pitch their way out of the jams to preserve the win.
Manno, who started just two seniors said despite that, their leadership was the difference.
"This is a special group,"Manno said. "Our seniors, for what they went through, losing a whole season to COVID, helped keep our tradition going. I could not be more proud of the group."
St. Viator senior Joe Gentile said that senior leadership helped this season and into the future.
"I just wanted these young guys to know who we were, " Gentile said. "Even though we didn't make the biggest impact on the field, I think we were definitely a big brother to all of them."