Walk-off win keeps Marian Catholic alive

When it comes to late-inning comebacks, Marian Catholic’s Rob Cifelli and his teammates admit they would rather jump out to an early lead and hold on for the win.

Of late, though, that hasn’t been the case for the Spartans, including Tuesday’s 6-5 walk-off thriller over Harlem at Benedictine University in Lisle.

In an elimination game at the Phil Lawler Classic for the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association playoffs, Marian Catholic put together a seventh-inning rally, scoring three runs to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals.

“All week long we’ve been doing it, coming back in the seventh,” Cifelli said. “It’s not something you want to do, but at that point you have to. Bear down and don’t look back. Go forward, and today our team stepped up in big spots.”

Cifelli was 0-for-9 at the plate in three games before coming up in the seventh with runners on with a chance to end the game. The senior center fielder went opposite field with an offering from Harlem pitcher Drake Robison, ripping the pitch over left fielder Cody Dietz’s head to score Brent Feldner for the game-winning run.

“Every at-bat you come up, it’s a new at-bat,” Cifelli said. “As long as I make adjustments in between at-bats, I wipe the slate when I come up to the plate. He threw me a fastball, and I was able to get enough of it.”

After losing in Tuesday’s early game to Maine South and facing elimination from the tournament, the Spartans were on the ropes against Harlem starter Derrick Mason. The lefty kept Marian off balanced through his five-plus innings of work as Harlem carried a 5-3 advantage into the bottom of the seventh.

“It’s baseball,” Marian assistant George Shimko said. “It’s easier said than done, but it is sticking with it, and knowing that everyone is going to pick each other up. It’s good to see them believe it as opposed to going through the motions.”

Devin Pickett’s sacrifice fly with one out started the rally in the seventh, scoring Brad Bohlen (3-for-4, RBI). Eric Callaghan’s RBI double brought pinch-runner Dave Calderone (Brett Lilek single) home, setting up Cifelli’s walk-off single to end the game.

Competing with Kyle Fitzgerald for the starting catcher spot, Feldner went 3-for-4 with a solo homer.

“He has been in and out of the lineup, and it’s tough not getting the at-bats,” Shimko said. “For him to step up big and get a fastball and put something on it is something special.”

Marian starter Jake McCabe threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, three walks and striking out four with only three runs earned of the five he surrendered.

“I was really happy to see him settle down,” Shimko said.Marian Catholic (17-10) plays Prairie Ridge Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the semifinals at Benedictine. The Spartans beat Harlem for a second straight day after winning 5-2 Monday afternoon.

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