Resilient St. Viator Claims First 3A State Championship

By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

JOLIET, IL – In an emotional roller-coaster of a game, St. Viator endured a furious late-inning comeback, but ultimately rebounded to defeat Marian Catholic, 10-8, to claim the Class 3A state championship Saturday at Silver Cross Field. The win marks the first baseball state title in St. Viator history.

The Lions (25-15) were cruising along, up 8-1 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, needing only six more outs for the state title. Those six outs proved to be anything but easy. Marian Catholic pieced together a remarkable inning, eventually scoring seven runs to tie the game at 8-8. The half inning included four singles, four walks, a hit batter, an error and a lost ball in the sun.

Five of the first six batters of the frame reached base safely to begin the bottom of the sixth for Marian Catholic (24-16), including singles from Eastern Illinois commit Wyell Woods, Illinois Tech commit Nick Bledsoe and Aidan Anderson, a Robert Morris commit. That forced the Lions to turn to the bullpen. After three of the next four batters reached base safely, St. Viator coach Mike Manno went to the bullpen once again, bringing in senior Brett DeSelm. With two outs, a tie game and the bases loaded, DeSelm froze the Marian Catholic batter looking for strike three and the final out of the wild bottom of the sixth inning.

If the Lions were shaken from the previous inning, they did not show it in the top of the seventh.

Freshman shortstop Jack Mahoney drew a tough one-out walk to give St. Viator life. DeSelm followed two batters later with a clean two-out single to left. With two outs, Michael Wittich delivered what turned out to be the state championship winning hit. Wittich deposited a ball into left-center field that Marian Catholic center fielder Christian Beal laid out for but couldn’t come up with. The hit resulted in a double and scored two, giving St. Viator a 10-8 lead.

DeSelm went back out for the seventh inning and closed things out for St. Viator. DeSelm picked up the win, going 1.1 innings, allowing no hits, no runs, one walk and struck out one to deliver the Arlington Heights school its first baseball championship. DeSelm was also the hero at the plate. He finished the day 3-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored. The physical right-handed hitter delivered an RBI single in the fourth inning and a clutch two-out, bases-clearing triple in the fifth. The hit gave St. Viator 7-1 lead at the time.

The Lions were well on their way to victory. Then the bottom fell out in the sixth.

“It kind of had to happen that way to make it a good story, right?” said senior centerfielder and left-handed pitcher Cole Kmet, a Notre Dame recruit who was the Lions’ unequivocal MVP throughout the season. “We showed a lot of perseverance as a team. … It was a team victory.”

The Lions pounded out 16 hits in their 10 run offensive outburst. They scored in every inning but two and every starter for St. Viator had at least one hit on the day. Senior Joe Sarnello went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Sophomore Casey Kmet went 2-for-5 with a run and led the game off with a double that one-hopped off of the left-field wall. Hunter Johnson and Wittich had two hits apiece for the Lions.

Miami Ohio commit Christian Beal, arguably the hottest hitter on the entire weekend, went 3-for-5 with a run scored and RBI to pace the Marian Catholic lineup.  

“The kids had fight all season,” said St. Viator coach Mike Manno, whose team avenged two losses to Marian Catholic during East Suburban Catholic Conference play. “The senior leadership after that inning really calmed us down.”

In the third-place game….

Marmion 7, Champaign Central 1

Marmion pounded out 15 hits and cruised their way to the third-place trophy. The Cadets of Marmion (22-17) scored two runs in the first, two in the third and two more in the fourth on way to the 7-1 win.

Senior Bobby Pierce had a big day offensively for the Cadets. Pierce finished 3-for-4 with a homerun, double, three RBI and two runs scored. Jack Molenhouse, Brandon McPherson, Bryce Burton and Trevor Taus chipped in with two hits apiece.

On the mound, McPherson and Eric Lundell combined to limit Champaign Central to four hits and one run. McPherson started and went 3.2 innings, scattered two hits, no runs, walked two and struck out four. Lundell went 3.1 innings, two hits, one run, walked three and struck out three.

Patrick Beckemeyer went 2-for-4 with an RBI to pace the Champaign Central offense.

This was the first state tournament appearance for Marmion.

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