LOVES PARK – The St. Charles East baseball team put the capper on one of the most impressive days for Saints athletics in recent history.
Hours after the St. Charles East softball team earned a state tournament berth in Rosemont, the Saints baseball team seized their moment along Interstate 90, too, defeating Jacobs, 7-2, in an IHSA Class 4A Rockford Supersectional.
"There's no better feeling than to be a Saint tonight," East second baseman Jack Dellostritto said.
East advances to Joliet's Silver Cross Field for Friday's 5 p.m. state semifinal against Libertyville, which beat Maine South, 5-3, in the first supersectional contested Monday at the Rockford Aviators' stadium.
Many of the Saints' familiar postseason themes resurfaced – opportunistic offense, quality defense and another dynamite outing by Matt Starai. The senior right-hander continued what has been a superb senior season, improving to 10-1 on the spring with a complete game three-hitter, his second in a row this postseason.
Jacobs coach Jamie Murray has been in the coaching ranks for 18 years and said Starai is near the top of the list of impressive arms he's seen.
"He was like a man out there today," Murray said. "He's a big-time guy."
East center fielder Anthony Sciarrino notched a two out, RBI single to center field in the top of the second inning to give the Saints a 1-0 lead, and Sciarrino hit in good fortune as the game went on.
In the third, after Dellostritto had tied the game at 2 with a two-out single of his own, Sciarrino came to the plate with two on and two outs. He lofted a fly ball to left-center that two Eagles seemed capable of snaring, but center fielder Nick Ledinsky failed to squeeze the ball, and a pair of Saints scored as East took the lead for good, 4-2.
With the Saints (27-11) leading, 5-2, in the fifth and runners at second and third and one out, Sciarrino flew to right field for what shaped up as a routine sacrifice fly. Instead, two Saints raced home when Jacobs right fielder Joe Rizzuto's throw home bounded past catcher Greg Sidor.
The Saints' mid-game surge also included Nicholas Erickson daringly and successfully tagging up from third base on a one-out, Joe Hoscheit fly ball to shallow right field that was caught by backpedaling Jacobs second baseman Grant Kale in the fourth inning.
"His momentum wasn't coming home, second baseman typically on a regular high school team, that's the guy that doesn't have the best arm, so we said, hey, let's take a chance," East coach Len Asquini said. … "It worked this time. Next time it might not work so good and everyone's telling me I'm stupid."
Even East third baseman Sean Dunne – whose early errors helped Jacobs grab a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second – found redemption, making a crowd-pleasing stab on a screaming liner from Sidor in the sixth inning that squirted out of Dunne's mitt, but was snared an instant later before hitting the ground.
Starai was a beast pitching with the lead, allowing only two baserunners – one of whom was caught stealing by catcher Adam Rojas – in the final five innings.
"I always like to try and get settled in and then really start finding the groove and attacking hitters," Starai said.
He was efficient, too, throwing 80 pitches on the night. That makes bringing him back on three days' rest Friday against Libertyville a possibility, though senior lefty Nick Huskisson is another solid option.
"We'll take a look at it," Asquini said.
Right fielder Brannon Barry and Huskisson each had two hits for the Saints, who knocked Jacobs starter Reilly Peltier (4-1) out of the game in the fourth inning.
IHSA Class 4A Baseball State Finals
Friday at Joliet's Silver Cross Field
Mt. Carmel vs. winner of today's University of Illinois Supersectional, 3 p.m.
St. Charles East vs. Libertyville, 5 p.m.
Third-place game at 3 p.m. Saturday; championship game at 5:30 p.m.