Peters’ pitching pushes Knights to state semisKaneland's Jake Razo makes a diving catch. | Greg Boll~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 6, 2011 9:17PM
On Sunday, Drew Peters thought to play it safe.
After working two innings of scoreless relief in Saturday’s sectional clinching victory over Marmion Academy, the Kaneland left-hander figured he should prepare himself to pitch in some capacity in Monday’s Rock Island Class 3A Supersectional at Augustana College’s Duane R. Swanson Stadium.
So he did — and then found himself penciled in to start against Peoria Notre Dame in the Knights’ biggest game of the season.
“He never told me,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Maybe.’ I came out this morning, (coach Brian Aversa) said, ‘You’re pitching,’ and I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”
The junior responded with six innings of five-hit ball as the Knights advanced to the IHSA Class 3A state finals with an 8-3 victory over the Irish.
“We’re just so happy about these boys going to state and the outpouring of support we’ve had from the community,” Aversa said. “From our coaches giving us scouting reports we felt so good about getting to this game and now overcoming this game and getting to state is a dream come true, it really is.”
Peters had more difficulty in the hot, humid weather than with the Irish (27-7) lineup, hitting three batters and walking two others due to a slick ball. But his fastball and curve ball were working well enough and the Irish were never able to mount a serious offensive threat.
“I think he was surprised (to start) but he’s one of our aces,” Knights catcher Tyler Heinle said. “He just wanted the ball in one of our biggest games of the season.”
Peters only struck out three, so he had to rely on his eight defenders — and the Knights (23-10) showed up. Center fielder Joe Camiliere made a spectacular diving catch on the warning track to end the first inning after the Irish had already scored on a Josh Swank RBI single.
An inning later, right fielder Jake Razo made a diving catch on a blooper by Alex Grawey and doubled Michael Fitzgerald off first with a strong throw to Sam Komel.
Heinle then caught Matt Buck wandering too far off first base after Buck had singled in two runs in the fifth to make it 8-3. Heinle threw out Buck again to end the game when Buck tried to steal second with two outs and two on in the top of the seventh.
“Defense is big, especially in these postseason games,” Camiliere said. “We’re playing good teams and the pitchers aren’t going to strike out every guy, so teams are going to put the ball in play and that’s what we want them to do.”
As solid as the Knights were defensively, the Irish were shaky, committing five errors and allowing three unearned runs. Notre Dame ace Doug Cicciarelli (10-1) started, but the Knights knocked him from the game after just 3⅓ innings after plating all eight runs on four hits, three walks and two hit batsmen.
Bobby Thorson drove in three runs and scored twice while Komel and Drew French each drove in two.
“We tried to be patient up there,” Thorson said. “We saw he was struggling with his control early, so we said, ‘Be patient, we know he’s going to give us a pitch to hit.’ And when he threw the pitch, we were all over it.”