DOWNERS GROVE – Strong pitching and timely hitting carried the Marmion's baseball team to a conference championship and a spot in the regional championship game.
Unfortunately for the Cadets, neither was in top form as they lost, 10-0, in five innings against host Downers Grove South in Saturday's Class 4A regional title game.
"It's definitely a tough loss," said Marmion's Alex Troop, a senior committed to Michigan State who has a shot to be selected in the MLB Amateur Draft. "We really wanted to make something happen and win our first big-class regional, but they played one heck of a game."
Marmion, which finished the season with a 16-11 record and a Suburban Christian Conference Blue title, went down in order in the top of the first, and in the bottom half of the frame the Mustangs batted through the order. Four singles, two walks and a hit batter led to three runs for the home team. The Mustangs were held scoreless in just one inning on the day.
"We just got outplayed today," Marmion coach Dave Rakow said. "Give credit where credit is due. Downers Grove South came out and they out-hit us, out-pitched us and out-fielded us."
Jacob Esp started for the Cadets and uncharacteristically labored through three innings of work during which the Mustangs (26-8) scored four runs. Gunnar Stanke and Garrett Fisher finished out the game.
"Jacob just didn't have one of his better outings," Rakow said. "He just struggled to get ahead of guys. I think of the 18 batters he faced, he threw three first-pitch strikes."
A pair of errors helped the Mustangs score five times in the fourth, and they closed it out with a single run in the bottom of the fifth.
The game signaled the end of the high school careers of 14 seniors, and while it was a disappointing way to close out the campaign, there were several bright spots. In addition to winning a conference title, Rakow said this week was the first time the Cadets had won a playoff game in Class 4A. Troop pitched them to a 2-0 win against Downers Grove North in a regional semifinal.
"As time comes I think we'll realize what we were able to accomplish," Troop said. "For 14 guys, this is a rough way to finish our careers, but we won a conference championship and this was a great group of guys to play with."
"It might be today or tomorrow or next week or a few weeks down the line, but I think these kids will be able to look back and be proud of what they did," Rakow said. "Only one team gets to go home with a win. This is a tough pill to swallow right now, but I'm proud of what these guys accomplished."
IHSA Class 2A Morrison Sectional: Aurora Christian fell in the sectional title game against Byron, 5-2.
The Eagles wrapped up their season with a 16-12 record.
IHSA Class 3A Lemont Regional: Rosary was ousted by host Lemont, 11-1, in the regional final. Rosary fell to 10-22.
Koenen falls in consolation semifinals: St. Charles East senior Jasper Koenen went 1-1 on the final day of the state tournament, beating Downers Grove South's Christian San Andres, 6-1, 6-2, before losing to Lake Forest's Peter Tarwid, 7-6 (4), 6-1, in the consolation semifinals.
Koenen finished his senior year with a 33-2 record and ended his four-year career with 114 victories.
• Jason Rossi contributed to this report.