Nazareth Outlasts St. Francis To Advance To 3A Title Game

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

JOLIET, IL – It won’t go down officially as the longest game in IHSA history, but after a two-hour rain delay before the 10 a.m. contest even began, and two other rain stoppages, the first game of the Class 3A state semifinal between Nazareth and St. Francis lasted 5 hours, 17 minutes.

When it was all said and done (finally), Nazareth came away with a well-played 2-1 victory Friday at Silver Cross Field. With the win, Nazareth (32-8) will play for the school’s first state championship after finishing fourth and third in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

“That was an unorthodox game,” said Nazareth coach Lee Milano, who is making his third appearance in Joliet in five years. “We had to wait before we started, then another delay … it was something we have not experienced this year.”

Except for the winning part.

Despite the sloppy conditions, both teams played clean baseball. Ultimately, though, the Roadrunners pushed the winning run across in the fifth inning on Kyle Kane’s sacrifice fly that scored Ryan Kramer. Kramer had ripped the first pitch of the fifth inning off the left-center wall for a double. After getting sacrificed over to third base and two consecutive walks, Kane broke the 1-1 tie with his sac fly to left field.

Nazareth senior left-hander Donald Kelly (9-2) pitched himself out of several jams throughout the game to earn the victory. But after yielding a leadoff single in the seventh to Tim Lilly, Milano brought in right-hander Carson Bartels, who proceeded to walk the first batter he faced, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Yep, trouble was brewing for the Roadrunners.

But with Will Purdom at the plate and in bunt mode, he popped up a two-strike attempt to catcher Shane Gipson, who caught it in foul territory and promptly saw that the runner on second base was in no-man’s land. Gipson fired to second base for the rally-killing double play. The next batter, catcher Brett Whelton, then reached on an error before Bartels induced a pop up to the second baseman to end the game.

St. Francis (26-10), which is making its second state appearance in three years, jumped on Kelly early in the first inning when Central Michigan-bound Jason Sullivan delivered a one-out single, followed by two more singles by Purdom and Whelton, which scored Sullivan.

Nazareth broke through in the third inning when junior centerfielder Joe Muscolino singled and scored on Matt Flach’s RBI single to right field.

St. Francis threatened on several occasions, but Kelly buckled down to get out unscathed. In the fourth, the first two St. Francis runners reached on a single and walk before Kelly struck out the next three batters. In the sixth, two runners reached in the sixth with one out, but Kelly retired the next two. In all, the 6-foot-2 Kelly yielded seven hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks in his six innings.

Kelly’s counterpart, Sullivan (11-2) pitched admirably as well. The right-hander allowed five hits, two runs, struck out four and walked four in five innings. Sullivan also went 2-for-3 at the plate with a walk and run scored.

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