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Winning is in their blood: St. Laurence heads to state

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

St. Laurence's Tim Molloy got cut up during a celebration after his team beat Brother Rice, 2-1, Saturday in the sectional title game.

St. Laurence junior infielder Tim Molloy sported a gash not too far from his left temple.

His nose was bleeding and his hands were covered in blood.

Was he bloodied from a collision at home plate or on the base path? Was he hit by a pitch? Was he involved in a brawl?

None of the above.

After Saturday’s St. Laurence 2-1 victory over Brother Rice to win the Vikings’ own Class 4A Sectional in front of an estimated crowd of 1,100, the blood came from his pals – albeit accidentally – during the postgame celebration.

“It happened in the dogpile,” he said minutes after smiling with his team for photos even though he looked like he had just come from a Halloween party. “It was worth it.’’

Welcome to the 2017 Class 4A area baseball postseason, where there has been plenty of blood, sweat and tears recently.

After the smoke cleared on Monday night, St. Laurence was still alive after upending Neuqua Valley, 5-1 at the Crestwood Supersectional in front of 1,755 fans at Standard Bank Stadium. But Sandburg suffered an 11-3 loss to Edwardsville at the University of Illinois Supersectional in Champaign.

St. Laurence (35-5) faces Edwardsville (33-7) in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.

Sophomore Matt McCormick’s two-run triple in the sixth highlighted a four-run sixth inning and the Vikings are headed to the state finals for the first time since 1993, when coach Pete Lotus was a player.

“I can’t describe what this feels like,” said McCormick, who had two of the Vikings’ six hits. “I didn’t get much sleep (Sunday night and Monday morning) but this is great.’’

Pitcher Angel Sandoval faced a team that entered the game with a 35-1-1 mark and gave up one run on four hits and threw just 60 pitches in seven innings.

“I’ve never done that before,” he said. “I just found out a few minutes after the game that I only threw 60 pitches and couldn’t believe it.’’

Sandburg (23-8) owned a 3-2 lead after four innings but Edwardsville (33-7) scored seven straight the rest of the way to earn a berth into the final four.

In the process, Sandburg made some history before reaching the final eight as the Eagles knocked off three-time defending champion Providence, 12-10, on May 31 in the Homewood-Flossmoor. It stopped a state-record 23-game postseason winning streak for the Celtics.

Sandburg reached the super by beating Lincoln-Way Central, 7-3. Brian Hughes, who was hitting ninth, drove in three runs and Andrew Tenison homered for the Eagles, who won their eighth sectional title but first since 2009. There was no letdown after the emotional Providence win as Tenison belted a pair of two-run homers in that game and reliever Erik Herold got out of a huge seventh-inning jam by inducing a game-ending double play.

“I was nervous to be in that situation,” Herold said. “I was happy we could pull off the win.’’

“That was a huge win,” Tenison said. “This is a big rivalry even though we don’t get to play each other much. They have some players we think should be playing at Sandburg. But that’s a great team and it was great to play them.’’

The Vikings reached the super after beating Chicago Catholic League Blue rival Brother Rice on Saturday.

Brother Rice opened the season as the No. 1 team in the state according to Prep Baseball Report. As the weeks went by and things started to shake out, St. Laurence spent a little time at the top spot and when the seedings came out, grabbed the No. 1 seed at its own sectional. Since the seedings came out, St. Laurence won two of the three meetings between the two clubs.

On Saturday, the game that counted most in the rivalry, McCormick drove home Bryan Lyle in the bottom of the seventh to cause the huge celebration between first and second base. McCormick also drove in the Vikings other run in the bottom of the fifth, minutes after Brother Rice’s Jack Guzek drove home Timmy Mahay in the top of the inning to break the scoreless deadlock.

“I thought a curveball was coming (from Guzek),” said McCormick of his game-winning hit. “He hung it a little. It hit it hard (to left-center) and the wind was blowing out. I knew it was down. It was the biggest hit of my career – definitely.’’

It marked the fourth time in school history the Vikings won a sectional title and second year in a row. Prior to this two-year run, the Vikings won in 1987 and 1993.