Prep Baseball Report

Marian Catholic Holds On, Downs Champaign Central In 3A Semifinal

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

JOLIET - What initially appeared to be a low-effort victory for Marian Catholic in the first Class 3A state semifinal against Champaign Central, turned into a white-knuckle ride that ended in a wild finish.

Easy or hard, the net result was the same: Marian Catholic will be playing for its second state championship since 2012 after defeating the Maroons, 4-3, Friday morning at Silver Cross FIeld.

The Spartans (24-15) jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the second inning, and with ace right-hander Mark DiLuia on the mound, it seemed that Marian Catholic was well on its way to Saturday's championship game.

But Champaign Central slowly chipped away, and the Maroons eventually tied it at 3-3 in the top of the seventh on a misplayed ball in right field with two outs. DiLuia (8-1), Maryland recruit who's one of the top senior prospects in the state, ultimately ended further damage with a strikeout on a wicked 78-mph slider, which, incidentally, would've been his last batter he could face under the new pitch-count rules.

All that set the stage for a rather interesting finish. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, senior LF Christian Beal crushed a ball that banged off the left-field wall for a double. Junior right-hander Cam Robinson (11-3) then hit the next batter, bringing to the plate Marian Catholic's top hitter, DiLuia, with one out.

Time to make a decision. After coach John Staab went to the pen, Marian Catholic coach Tony DeCarlo went for it ...

On reliever Dom Erlinger's first pitch, DeCarlo called a double steal, only Beal slipped on the break, and would've been smoked at third base ... but the throw to third got away, squirting into left-center. Then DeCarlo waved Beal home, and the throw once again beat Beal to the plate, but was off line.

Game over.

"I had confidence Christian would get there," said DeCarlo.

But ... "I was freaking out."

Beal, a 5-foot-9, 150-pound Miami Ohio recruit, was the spark for Marian Catholic all game. The leadoff man finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, which included a two-run drive to key the Spartans' three-run third inning. He also squared a ball to center field and, of course, scored the game-winning run.

DiLuia went the distance for Marian Catholic, allowing six hits, three earned runs with two walks and eight strikeouts behind an 85-88 mph fastball and at times a sharp, 75-80 mph slider.

"I definitely didn't have my best stuff today, but had to keep fighting through," said DiLuia, who also had a hit at the plate.

Champaign Central chipped away against DiLuia, scoring a run in the fourth on Zak Hartleb's two-out RBI single, scoring Robinson, who had doubled. The Maroons made it 3-2 in the sixth on Robinson's second double of the game, a booming shot to left-center. Then, in the seventh, they tied it up after Patrick Beckemeyer dropped down a two-out bunt single, followed by Marshall Thompson's high fly ball to right field that was misplayed.

Robinson settled down after a the second inning, going 5.2 innings with seven hits, two earned runs with one strikeout and one walk.

Marian Catholic, which won the state championship in 2012, will face the winner of St. Viator and Marmion on Saturday at noon.

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