SYCAMORE – After pitching almost flawlessly for 6 innings-plus, St. Francis pitcher Jack Petrando passed the ball off to Andrew Brundage for the second straight game during Saturday's Class 3A sectional championship against host Sycamore, with St. Francis clinging to a 1-0 lead and two runners on base.
For the second straight game, Brundage came through for his fellow senior, walking one to load the bases before forcing two Sycamore outs, giving St. Francis its second sectional baseball championship in three years.
“I left him in a pressure situation, and he came through in the clutch. He's got ice in his veins,” Petrando said. “That was a great win.”
The Spartans move on to play Metamora in the Class 3A Rock Island Supersectional at Augustana College at 6 p.m. Monday.
The Spartans (23-11) were shut down by Sycamore pitcher Cole Nelson for most of the game, mustering just three hits all day. But Petrando was just as dominant.
Sycamore (25-12) managed just one baserunner during each of the first four innings, and the Spartans were able to cancel out two of Sycamore's three hits during that span with double plays. Sycamore's powerful lineup, which scored 35 runs on the way to winning its first three games of the playoffs by the 10-run rule, managed just six hits all day.
“We tried to mix up the pitches and play a clean defensive game, which we did,” St. Francis coach Rich Janor said. “[Jack] came in and being a senior, he was a part of the last sectional championship team in 2011, so he's been here before. He really gutted one out.”
After the St. Francis bats were silent for the first six innings, Tim Zettinger reached on an error in the seventh, and Jake Radel stepped into the batter's box with a runner on second and two outs. After fouling off three pitches, Radel saw a fastball down the middle and slammed it to center field to drive in Zettinger.
“I was just looking for not a strike three,” Radel said. “Anything to hit. I knew I had to swing and get a hit because Tim was going to steal third.”
After winning their last three playoff games by one run apiece, the Spartans are just one win away from the state semifinals in Joliet.
“Really, nothing comes easy,” Janor said. “We're thrilled with a 1-0 game. We knew it was going to be a battle.”