The crowd was on its feet for the final at-bat at Wrigley Field on Monday. That’s a familiar sight on a May afternoon on the North Side, but this time a championship was on the line, admission and parking were free and there wasn’t a millionaire on the diamond.
Lane starting pitcher Josh Katz retired Brooks outfielder Kendall Larry on his 114th pitch of the game, securing a 2-1 win in the Chicago Public League title game.
Katz found out on Wednesday that he’d be starting the game. So he had a few days to wrap his head around it and prepare.
But actually walking onto the field was a breathtaking moment for the junior.
“I saw the bleachers and kind of that smell of walking into Wrigley Field,” Katz said. “It was incredible.”
The final moments were special. Brooks and Lane both brought big crowds.
The Eagles scored once in the seventh to cut into Lane’s lead and had runners on first and second with one out.
Katz had thrown more than 100 pitches and appeared to be on the ropes. He walked two in the inning, but Lane coach Sean Freeman stuck with his ace.
“I’m not gonna lie, I thought that might be the end [after walking CJ Mendez],” Katz said. “I had about five pitches left maybe. Not many.”
Katz, who is 6-0 after the win and entered the game with a 0.62 ERA this season, got Brooks catcher Marco Luna to fly out to left and then leadoff hitter Kendall Larry grounded to third for the final out.
“I wanted this more than anyone for Lane and for everyone,” Katz said. “Coming here as a kid and watching the pros pitch on the mound it just felt incredible to come out and throw strikes and win the CPS championship.”
Katz allowed five hits, struck out eight, and walked two. Second baseman Nick Lagges was the offensive hero for Lane (23-11). He scored the eventual winning run in the fourth inning. It was a fortunate accident. He managed to score from second base on a grounder to second.
“I thought the ball had made it to the outfield but I was still running so I kept my head down and just ran home and made him make the play,” Lagges said.”
Lagges thought he was being waved around but Lane coach Sean Freeman said that wasn’t the case.
“That was a little miscommunication but it worked out,” Freeman said. “Sometimes that’s baseball. We put the pressure on. [Lagges] was going hard and made them make a bad throw.”
Junior Jack Tzur had two hits and one RBI for Lane and senior Carter Dow walked twice and scored a run.
Senior Ryan Little started for Brooks (16-12), which beat Simeon in extra innings in the semifinals. Little pitched four innings and allowed three hits and two runs.
Quinn Harris/For the Sun-Times
Katz didn’t allow a hit to any of the first six batters in the Eagles’ lineup. But the bottom of the order did some damage. Junior Amir Faulkner had two hits and one RBI and Mendez, a sophomore, had two hits and a walk.
“CPS and the Cubs put on a top-notch event,” Brooks coach Tony Beale said. “This was a great high school baseball. I know the kids are disappointed but they have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m so proud of this and they will remember this day their entire lives.”
Jed Hoyer, the Cubs president, watched a few innings from the stands behind the third-base dugout.
CPS Sports Director David Rosengard expects to rotate the game between Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate. The last time the game was at Wrigley was in 2017. Monday’s crowd was significantly bigger than the typical crowd in Joliet for the Illinois High School Association’s state title game.
“The Cubs were wonderful about running it like a Cubs game,” Rosengard said. “We’re trying to do wow moments for kids and this was a wow moment.”