Baseball: Marmion handles St Francis, windy conditionsMarmion Academy's Peter Bowe was tough both on the field and in the batter's box as he clears the bases with a three run triple against St Francis in a regional semi-final contest on Thursday, May 24, 2012. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 24, 2012 10:08PM
Heading into Thursday’s Class 3A Kaneland Regional semifinal against St. Francis, Marmion baseball coach Dave Rakow preached mental toughness to his team.
Wind gusts over 40 miles per hour made every fly ball an adventure and also caused countless stoppages in the action to wait out wind gusts that turned the infield into a sandstorm.
The Cadets took their coach’s pregame words to heart. They played error-free ball and Connor Riley threw six solid innings despite not being able to get into a rhythm or use his curveball, leading to a 5-1 Marmion win. The Cadets advance to face DeKalb in Saturday’s regional final.
“It wasn’t going to be ideal conditions,” Rakow said. “I don’t think it affected us too much today. We made most of the plays. I don’t think it caused us to do anything crazy. I was happy that we were able to be tough enough to go out there and not let it affect us, especially Connor on the mound.”
The severe wind gusts did play into Marmion’s offensive output, however. Kyle Kozak’s RBI double in the first nearly caused a collision in left-center field with the ball moving dramatically in the air. Then in the third, Peter Bowe’s bases-loaded triple blew the game open. The ball was hit out to left field again, and it danced around and wound up popping out of Jack Petrando’s glove after a diving attempt at the catch.
“It was bases loaded, two outs,” Bowe said. “It’s not like I could just ground out and get the run in. I just had to come up with a hit there. I don’t think it would have been a hit without the wind. I asked the outfielders in warm-ups how it was, and it was bad.”
St. Francis (16-10) did have six balls hit in the air, but the Cadets (21-10) fielded them all cleanly. Riley struck out five and allowed a run on six hits to improve to 7-2 on the season. With the wind adversely affecting his curveball, he went almost exclusively with the fastball all day.
“For a right-hander, when the wind is blowing at your back or to the right, it’s going to affect your curveball,” Rakow said. “There wasn’t much he could do but throw the fastball. He placed it well. Luckily he threw enough strikes to get them out today.”
The Cadets, winners of 10 of their last 12 games, move from a familiar opponent — fellow Suburban Christian Conference foe St. Francis — to a team they have yet to face in DeKalb. The Barbs feature a lineup heavy with left-handed hitters, so expect a heavy dose of lefties Shane Cano and Chris Simon on the mound for Marmion. Rakow has not decided yet which pitcher will start, but he said he is leaning towards Cano.
“They have both had a lot of success for us, so I’m comfortable with either one of them,” Rakow said.