Triad baseball falls in state semifinals
St. Ignatius dashed state baseball championship hopes for Triad the same way the Knights ended them for Columbia in the sectional final.
With a walk-off wild pitch in extra innings.
Dominick Fischer gave himself the win in relief when he scored from third base on a Zach Kraabel fastball that skipped to the backstop. With the 3-2 victory, St. Ignatius advanced to the IHSA Class 3A title game against Morton at Joliet's Slammer Stadium on Saturday.
"It's baseball. It's a stupid game on occasion, but that's they way it goes," Triad head coach Jesse Bugger said. "We had a couple of chances where we hit the ball pretty hard. It just wasn't our day today."
Triad (29-12), which last qualified for state in 2012, will play Nazareth Academy (23-13-1) for third place at 9 a.m. Saturday. A win would give the Knights just their second 30-win season in school history and represent their best finish at state.
"We have one more day together playing baseball," Bugger said of his seniors, many of whom are four-year starters. "We'll talk about that and make sure that we are ready to go out there and play one more time like we're playing capable. I don't think we'll have too tough a time getting ready to play tomorrow.
"We're obviously disappointed, but we'll do the best we can."
St. Ignatius finished the regular season in fourth place in the Chicago Catholic League. Head coach Sean Mason said he wrote the names of all the conference teams on a locker room blackboard, then crossed them off one by one as they were eliminated from the postseason.
"If you'd have told me at the beginning of the season that we'd be the last one left, I'd have said you were lying," Mason said. "But I want to say again that I believe the Chicago Public League is the best conference in the state of Illinois. It prepares us so there's nothing in the postseason we haven't already seen in the regular season."
St. Ignatius scored single runs in the second and third inning off Triad starter Mack Langdon, who was mostly brilliant through 5 1/3 innings. The right-handed senior allowed five hits, walked one intentionally and hit a batter, while striking out nine.
Triad rallied with two out in the fifth to tie the game 2-2. Sophomore Joe Wade doubled and scored on a single by pinch hitter Ethan Gratton, a junior. Drew Parres, who had walked, later scored on a hit by Kraabel.
Hunter Smith, who reentered the game to run for Gratton, attempted to score on the Kraabel single but was out at the plate by several steps.
Will McManaman, St. Ignatius' 6-4 senior left-hander, retired the next seven Triad batters in a row. But the Knights put the go-ahead run on in the top of the eighth with one out.
Nick Beeler, their McKendree-bound No. 3 hitter, lined sharply to right fielder Emmanuel Scott, who had to recover from a bad read to make a leaping catch to end the inning.
"(McManaman) worked away quite a bit and would try to elevate the fastball late in counts," Bugger said. "I thought we were a little slow, maybe, to adjust and drive the ball to the opposite field, but when we did hit it, they caught it."
St. Ignatius then put its first two runners on base but tried unsuccessfully to move them into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Fischer, who had singled, made his way to third on a fielder's choice and, with an 0-2 count on the batter, scored on the wild pitch.