Baseball: Marian Catholic’s magical run to continue DownstateMarian Catholic's Erik Callaghan (center) gets congratulated after scoring against Homewood-Flossmoor during a varsity baseball game on Friday, Mar. 30, 2012 in Chicago Heights, Ill. | John Smierciak~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 6, 2012 6:02PM
Marian Catholic has plenty of athletic tradition, winning state trophies in multiple sports.
But the Spartans haven’t had much to brag about in baseball — till now.
Under alum and fourth-year coach Phil Wail, Marian is heading to state for the first time after winning its first regional since 1987 and its first sectional and supersectional titles in program history.
“This is huge,” senior Devin Pickett said after Monday’s supersectional win over Simeon. “Fifty-two, 53 years [the school has been open], never been down to [state]. We’re just trying to take it all in now.”
That includes Wail, who has led the 23-17 Spartans to their first winning season since 2005 and just the program’s fifth since 1994.
“The school gave a lot to me,” he said. “I went there, I got a great education, I got a scholarship for baseball and played four years. You want to give back to the school.”
Marian faces East Suburban Catholic Conference rival Nazareth (30-9) in the second Class 3A semifinal at noon Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
The Spartans’ ace is Arizona State recruit Brett Lilek, who is 6-4 with a 2.43 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings.
Nazareth is back at state after finishing fourth in 3A a year ago. The Roadrunners, who split two games with Marian this season, are paced by pitcher Dominic Purpura (9-1, 1.43) and pitcher/outfielder Ryan Marske (.364, 30 RBI).
The Marian Catholic-Nazareth winner will play one of two Downstate teams — Triad (32-8) or LaSalle-Peru (33-6) — in Saturday’s title game.
Here’s a look at the Class 4A semifinals:
Grant (25-11) vs. Oak Park-River Forest (28-9-1), 3 p.m. Friday: Upstart Grant overcame a five-run deficit to earn a walk-off win over South Elgin in Monday’s supersectional and punch a ticket to state for the first time in program history. Jared Helmich (11-1) has three of the Bulldogs’ five playoff wins. Oak Park, back at state for the first time since 2008, has a pair of proven arms in Joe McKune (6-2, 1.43) and Zachary Weigel (6-1, 1.71).
Lyons (26-12-1) vs. Minooka (27-13), 5 p.m. Friday: Lyons is looking to become the first big school to repeat as state champ since Maine won in 1958 and ‘59. Two-way standouts Keith Lehmann (9-2, 0.86; .343, 36 RBI) and Steve Heilenbach (5-4, 2.11; .315, 27 RBI), the only returning regulars from last year’s title team, pace the Lions. Minooka has one of the state’s most successful pitchers in Josh Jimenez (11-2, 1.68).