No. 2 St. Rita ousts defending champ Mount Carmel

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

St. Rita 4, Mount Carmel 3. Top of the seventh of the Class 4A Reavis Sectional championship game. Bases full of Caravan. Two outs. St. Rita’s outstanding closer Jake Shepski on the mound vs. Mount Carmel  junior catcher Scott Kapers at the plate. Another Chicago Catholic League Blue Division classic was nearing its conclusion.

Shepski would induce Kapers to hit a towering pop up on the infield. When it landed in junior shortstop Marty Bechina’s glove, the No. 2-ranked Mustangs had punched their ticket to the Class 4A Elite Eight. It doesn’t get any better than what the overflow crowd at Ron Czarnecki Field witnessed on a beautiful early June Saturday afternoon.

With the win, the St. Rita Mustangs (35-5) will meet the Downers Grove South Mustangs (28-8)  in Monday’s  7:30 Class 4A Standard Bank Stadium Supersectional in Crestwood. Downers Grove South crushed No. 17 Plainfield North 10-1 to win the Class 4A Oswego Sectional Championship on Saturday morning.

“Mount Carmel had knocked us out of the tournament the past two years and there was no way I was going to allow them to beat us again,” said Shepski.

The game matched Austin Peay-bound St. Rita ace lefty Mike Costanzo vs. Mount Carmel’s Penn State-bound lefty Marko Boricich. Both clubs picked up a run in the first inning. The Caravan picked up an unearned run on a defensive miscue from Costanzo. St. Rita’s Tennessee-recruit Tyler Halas ripped a one-out RBI single to knot the game at 1-1. The Mustangs would pick up an unearned run in the bottom of the second to take a 2-1 lead.

The Mustangs would tack on a pair of runs in the fourth on an RBI single from centerfielder Shane Peisker and another RBI from Halas. Halas put on a clinic all day at third base, making three sensational plays in the field for the Mustangs.

“It was great win and we all played great defense today,” said Halas. “The coaches helped me out having me in the right position to make the plays that I was able to make. It feels awesome to  to be sectional champs and having avenged last year’s loss to Mount Carmel.”

Mount Carmel (31-8) would pull within 4-2 on a Costanzo (10-2) wild pitch in the top of the sixth. The future Governor would walk Caravan No. 9-hitter Greg Plozaj to lead off the seventh. St. Rita coach Mike Zunica would turn to Mustang closer Jake Shepski to nail down the save for Costanzo.

“Everybody performed well for us today,” said Costanzo. “I was able to locate my fastball for strikes and what an amazing finish to an amazing game. On Monday, we have to come out and continue to do what we have done all year.”

Shepski came into the game with total perfection in the closer role, having saved all eight of his previous eight save opportunities. The only question was how much gas would be in the tank of the Notre Dame-bound Shepski, who on Wednesday had fired a five-hit shutout at Lyons Township in the sectional semifinal.

Shepski quickly retired the first two Caravan batters he faced. The defending Class 4A state champions from Mount Carmel would not die easily. Sophomore Jeremy Houston ripped an RBI single to pull the Caravan within 4-3. Malik Carpenter would single and when Josh Stowers battled Shepski for a base on balls to load the bases, the Shepski-Kapers showdown ensued.

“It sure wasn’t easy and we made it tougher on ourselves than we had to,” said Zunica. “We survived. Mike was very solid on the mound for us on a hot day and Jake gave us everything he had. Tyler Halas had a great overall game for us and the left side of our defense was stellar.”

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