Baseball: Marian Catholic caps historic run with state title

Story Image The Marion Catholic baseball team celebrates after winning the IHSA 3A State title.
Story Image

Updated: June 9, 2012 3:56PM

Ben Santori didn’t sleep well Friday night and was feeling ill Saturday morning.

But then his Marian Catholic teammates put up eight runs in the third inning of the Class 3A state championship game and the senior was on cruise control.

Santori worked around 11 hits for his second complete game in six days as the Spartans completed their improbable playoff run with a 10-2 victory over LaSalle-Peru Saturday afternoon at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.

Marian Catholic (25-17) lost nine of 11 games at one point and was 17-17 before finishing the season on an eight-game winning streak. Before this spring, the Spartans hadn’t won a regional since 1987, hadn’t had a winning season since 2005 and had never won a sectional.

But once Arizona State-bound ace Brett Lilek got healthy and the Spartans started supporting Santori, they got on a roll no opponent could stop.

“We started bonding, off the field especially,” said leadoff man and center fielder Rob Cifelli, who was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and his 54th stolen base of the season on Saturday. “It translated into our play on the field.”

Cifelli, Lilek (2-for-3, run, two RBI) and Patrick Swanson (2-for-3, two runs RBI) led the way offensively for the Spartans on Saturday.

But Santori (4-2) and LaSalle-Peru starter Noah Lamboley were locked in a 1-1 duel when Marian took advantage of some fielding lapses by the Cavaliers to break the game open.

Two errors helped jump-start an eight-run third inning that featured a two-run double by Brent Feldner and a two-run single by Lilek. Cifelli and Patrick Schmidt also had RBI singles in the rally.

“After we got eight runs, I knew I could just throw strikes and settle down,” Santori said.

The righty wasn’t as sharp as on Monday, when he threw an eight-inning shutout to beat Simeon 1-0 in the supersectional. But he didn’t need to be.

“I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Santori, who struck out five, walked none and was supported by errorless defense. “My fastball didn’t have the pop it usually does. But my changeup was on today and I could throw my curveball with location.”

“He’s got a great curveball, a great offspeed pitch,” Marian coach Phil Wail said. “That’s a great equalizer.”

Wail liked the Spartans’ chances with Santori on the mound, the latter’s modest record notwithstanding.

“The kid’s pitched plenty of big games,” Wail said. “We didn’t give him any run support. He was a tough no-decision guy or loser.”

But not this time. “It’s awesome,” Santori said. “I’ve always dreamt of this moment and it came true. I can’t put it into words.”

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