JOLIET – It was a hard hat that Marmion's baseball team often looked to as it made its first ever run to the state finals.
It was good, old-fashioned hard-nosed baseball that got them there.
The Cadets may have fallen short of a state title, but they brought a Class 3A third place trophy back home to Aurora June 10.
“We were on the bus heading to Mt. Carmel when we saw the brackets and couldn’t believe we had to play in a play-in game,” Cadets coach Frank Chapman said. “So we had talked about how we needed to finish the season on a seven-game winning streak, but [then] we had to win eight games so I had a hard hat and I wrote 8-0 on it and that became our new mantra.”
Marmion (22-17) came close to pulling that off, finishing 7-1 during their postseason run.
Lanky 6-foot-5 left-hander Cole Kmet was dominant against the Cadets in a June 9 state semifinal, scattering six hits and fanning nine in St Viator's 11-1 mercy rule shortened six-inning victory that knocked the Cadets out of the hunt for a state title.
The Cadets bounced back less than 24 hours later, beating Champaign Central 7-1 behind strong pitching from starter Brandon McPherson and reliever Eric Lundell. McPherson and Lundell limited Champaign Central to only four hits while the Cadets pounded out 15 hits of their own.
“This was the best way we could send out our seniors,” Chapman said. “We had a great run. Playing in the [Chicago] Catholic League Blue prepared us for this stage and the guys believed that they could make the run down to Joliet, so I’m very proud of how they bought in to that. The seniors go out with a win and we’ve got some momentum now going into next spring.”
Senior Bobby Pierce delivered big time against Champaign Central. He doubled home Jack Molenhouse as the Cadets jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning to get his day started. In the third inning, Pierce launched a solo home run and in the fourth he smacked an RBI single.
“I had so much fun,” Pierce said. “[June 9] was tough but to be able to bounce back like we did says so much about the team. Playing so many tough teams in conference really prepared us for this and the whole experience in Joliet was a blast.”
Pierce scored twice against Champaign Central, as did Molenhouse. Bryce Burton and Trevor Taus both doubled and each had a run and an RBI, McPherson added an RBI, and Chase Stanke scored in the top of the fourth for a 7-0 Marmion lead that all but sealed a win in the final game of the postseason.
And it all started with a 16-1 win against IMSA in the play-in game, which served as motivation.
“We never should’ve been in a play-in game, but we had to play it and we just kept grinding,” Pierce said. “Our bench, everyone really, kept us going. Losing to St. Viator was tough but we bounced back, we were relaxed and finished our last game strong.”
It’s a season that won’t be forgotten at Marmion.
“Our conference prepared us for this,” Chapman said. “We were well equipped to make a run like that, but it’s tough because you’ve got to win to survive because it’s do or die. We were able to do that and get to Joliet and I couldn’t be more proud to finish like we did.”