AURORA – Marmion junior left-handed pitcher Alex Troop handcuffed West Aurora’s lineup for chunks of Monday’s postseason opener, striking out three Blackhawks apiece in the second and fourth innings and allowing only one extra-base hit on the day.
But the most fundamental element of pitching – a clean transaction between the pitcher and the catcher – periodically eluded the Cadets, and it hurt Marmion in a 3-1 loss to West Aurora in an IHSA Class 4A Naperville Central Regional first-round game.
Wild pitches and passed balls arguably were the Blackhawks’ greatest offensive resource at Marmion’s Joe Nardone Field, aiding West Aurora in both innings in which the Blackhawks scored.
“It was [frustrating], I’ll admit it,” Troop said of the seven combined extra bases the Blackhawks took on wild pitches and passed balls in the second and fourth innings.
“We have something to work on for next year. I mean, we all have something. Everywhere around. We had a lot of juniors in the starting lineup today. Hopefully we can bring back some talent for next year and maybe make a run at something.”
Unfortunately for Marmion (13-12), West Aurora also had a left-hander who was throwing a quality game, and Blackhawks southpaw D.J. Varney had no such problems with balls scooting to the backstop.
Marmion had a couple of decent chances offensively but only had back-to-back hits once, singles in the second inning by Zach Siwiec and Shane Carmody that did not produce any runs.
“More than anything, I credit their pitcher,” Marmion coach Dave Rakow said. “He came out and he threw strikes, man. His pitch count, through seven innings, I think he only threw about 80, maybe 90 pitches. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat to the pitcher and say he did a heck of a job.”
Trailing 3-0 entering the bottom of the sixth, Marmion mounted a threat that could have swung the outcome.
Cadets leadoff man Josh Meyers tripled to start the inning, and scored on a groundout by left fielder Brian Simon.
Troop and catcher Brady Roberts then drew consecutive walks and, after Varney recorded the second out of the inning, Siwiec was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
But Varney then induced a come-back grounder by Carmody, who was thrown out at first to end the inning.
West Aurora coach John Reeves lauded the complete-game performance of his all-conference pitcher, but also was impressed by Troop (5-2), who struck out nine batters in 51/3 innings of work.
“I thought he threw an excellent game,” Reeves said of Troop, a Batavia resident. “That might be one of the better pitchers we’ve seen all spring. We’ve seen a bunch of them, but he was pretty good.”
The postseason win was a peak in a season of extreme highs and lows for West Aurora (14-16).
“We’ve been an interesting ballclub this year,” Reeves said. “Won six in a row, lost 16 of 17, and then won seven in a row. And in the middle of losing 16 of 17, we had a six-run lead on Glenbard North and blew that, had a 2-0 lead on Wheaton South and blew that.
“We had a rough stretch of it, so it’s nice to see the guys still fighting at the end of the year. It shows a little bit about their character as people.”
Marmion reliever Connor Riley retired all five Blackhawks he faced, striking out the first three.
The Cadets have enjoyed postseason success in Class 3A during Rakow’s six-year tenure but are now 0-2 when slotted in 4A.
Rakow noted that 17 of the 21 players on this year’s team were sophomores or juniors.
“I think a lot of the close games we lost this year, kind of like this one, maybe next year we find a way to win it,” Rakow said.