Thu May 31, 2012
By Sean Duncan
NEW LENOX, IL - It did not look good for Marian Catholic. The Spartans were chasing a run in the seventh inning against arguably the state’s most dominant pitcher, Oak Forest’s Kyle Funkhouser, who was pumping it especially hard on Wednesday. Hard as in 93 mph nearly every pitch, even touching a few 94s.
Lights out, right? Not quite.
Marian Catholic scraped together three runs in the seventh, and went on to upend Oak Forest, 7-5, in a Class 3A Lincoln-Way West sectional semifinal.
Junior shortstop Erik Callahan spurred the comeback with a run-scoring double, turning on a 93-mph Funkhouser fastball over the third-base bag to tie the game at 5-5. The Spartans (21-17) took the lead for good when Funkhouser was called for a balk, which scored Devin Pickett, who had reached on a bunt single. Callahan came around to score the final run on a passed ball.
“I was looking first pitch fastball,” said Callahan. “He started everyone first pitch fastball. It’s probably the third or fourth time I’ve seen that speed, but I was ready for it.”
Marian Catholic, which has had an up-and-down season after lofty preseason expectations, advances to play Lincoln-Way West on Saturday for the sectional championship.
“I think the difference between us and some other teams is we’re battle-tested,” said Marian Catholic coach Phil Wail. “We’ve seen a lot of good pitching this year. … Erik (Callahan) is a player who comes through in big times for us.”
Marian Catholic mounted a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Brett Lilek’s bloop double and Brad Bohlen’s RBI single. But Oak Forest (27-7) rallied with two runs each in the third and fourth innings to mount a 5-2 lead. Sophomore first baseman Brian Richard drove in three of those runs with a two-run single in the third and a RBI single in the fourth.
Pickett, an Iowa recruit, helped Marian Catholic get within striking distance when he delivered a two-run double, cutting the deficit to 5-4 in the fifth. Pickett finished 3-for-3 and reached base all four times.
After Pickett’s double, Oak Forest coach Thaddeus Gatton went to Funkhouser, who threw 100-plus pitches in the regional title game Saturday. The Louisville-bound Funkhouser was pumping 93 mph consistently, but issued an uncharacteristic three walks in the final two innings.
“Funk threw on three days’ rest,” said Gatton. “Those kids battled, but we didn’t have much left.”