No. 3 St. Rita cruises past No. 1 St. Laurence, advances to sectional final

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

BURBANK – After sitting through a 50-minute thunder delay, No. 3 St. Rita rocked No. 1 St. Laurence with a five-run first inning and went on to crush the Vikings 8-0 on Thursday.

The sizzle of this highly-anticipated Class 4A Reavis Sectional semifinal between the two Chicago Catholic Blue powers was quickly removed when St. Rita (31-7) jumped on St. Laurence hard-throwing senior right-hander Zach Lewis (7-2) in the first inning.  John A. Logan College-bound Anthony Ray opened up the game with a single. After one out, senior left-fielder Connor McClain ripped a booming double, easily scoring the fleet-footed Ray to ignite the first-inning rally.

“We really came out aggressive and attacked Lewis,” said McLain. “I was aggressive at the plate as well and it felt good to contribute to the big first-inning with the RBI double to get us on the board first.”

Marty Napleton was hit by a pitch, Andy Massey walked and McLain scored on a RBI single from junior C Nate Soria. Sophomore third baseman Tyler Halas had the big blow of the inning with a big two-run double, plating Napleton and Massey.

“I was seeing the ball very well today. We were aggressive and it felt good to get the big two-run double in the first inning,” said Halas. “This was a great team win and it should be a great game on Saturday.”

No. 9 hitter Pete Cozzi singled home the final run of the inning.

Given the five-run cushion, the Mustangs starting and winning pitcher, junior lefty Austin Peay-recruit Mike Costanzo was magnificent on the mound. Costanzo fired 3 1/3 no-hit innings, losing his no-no with one out in the top of the fourth on a single by Viking junior second baseman Mike Kornacker.

Costanzo (10-3) would go on to fire a three-hit shutout at the Chicago Catholic Blue champs with three strikeouts. Costanzo has 99 punch-outs on the season for the Mustangs.

“I pitched well today but as usual my defense was great behind me,” said Costanzo. “The five-run first was very beneficial to me. The wind that was blowing right in my face was difficult to deal with but I stayed ahead of the hitters and kept the ball low. If we come out on Saturday and play as we did today, we will be very tough to beat.”

In the sixth and seventh, the Mustangs picked up their final three runs, the best way a team can, after two outs.

In the two-run sixth, junior second baseman Jake Shepski and McLain each had clutch two-out RBI singles to pad the Mustang cushion. In the Mustang seventh, sophomore shortstop Marty Bechina, making his first varsity start, struck after two outs with an RBI double. Bechina handled four chances in the field flawlessly, starting a tremendous 6-4-3 DP in the Viking fourth.

“I just went out and did my job and I did everything I could to help us win,” said Bechina. “Mike was outstanding on the mound for us and this was a great overall team win.” 

With the win, the Mustangs move on to an 11 a.m. date with No. 2-ranked Mount Carmel (30-8) for the Class 4A Reavis Sectional Championship.

“This was a great win for us,” said St. Rita head coach Mike Zunica. “In playoff baseball it is very hard to come back from a five-run deficit. Our first inning was huge. Mike was outstanding against a very good St. Laurence team. It will be a mad-house here on Saturday.”

Lewis fired a complete game for St. Laurence, allowing all eight runs and 11 hits with six strikeouts and one walk. The Chicago Catholic League Blue Division champs close out another outstanding season under the tutelage of Viking head coach Pete Lotus at 27-10.

IL Top Prospect Slide 6-13-13