Crystal Lake South starter Mark DeCicco pitched a clean first inning, but Nazareth hit the ball hard and Roadrunners right fielder Nick Drtina could feel good things were about to happen for his team.
“We knew we were going to get to him,” Drtina said. “We were lacing balls left and right and we all had good approaches at the plate. We got on him and we didn’t stop.”
Drtina scored three runs, drove in one, and had one hit as Nazareth beat the Gators 16-3 Friday in the Illinois High School Association Class 3A state semifinals at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet.
Drtina, a sophomore, and freshman Jaden Fauske have both committed to Louisville. Sophomore shortstop Cooper Malamazian is committed to Indiana. The Roadrunners (33-7) are loaded with college-bound upperclassmen as well.
Nazareth scored two runs in the second and broke the game open with six runs in the third inning.
Second baseman David Cox, a junior, led the onslaught for the Roadrunners with four hits, three runs, and a RBI. Luke Brabham added two hits and three RBI. Sam Wampler had a pair of hits and two RBI and sophomore Luca Fiore had two hits and a RBI.
Sebastian Gutierrez pitched all seven innings for Nazareth, allowing three runs on two hits. He walked five and struck out seven. Gutierrez has pitched most of the season in relief. His last start was April 17.
“They helped me by putting up a bunch of runs,” Gutierrez said. “I just had to execute pitches and they did the rest.”
Nazareth will face Glenwood (27-6) in the Class 3A title game on Saturday afternoon. The Titans are one of the state’s premier programs, winning state titles in 2010 and 1996 and finishing second in 2009 and 1995.
The Roadrunners, who were down to their last strike five times in their sectional win against Lemont, have never won a baseball state title.
“It’s just another game,” Nazareth coach Lee Milano said. “We never play our opponent, we play the game of baseball. Our goal on offense is to score a run an inning and our goal on defense is to avoid the big inning. That has given us a chance to win every game this year except two. That is how we will approach tomorrow.”
Crystal Lake South (19-15) made five errors and came up short defensively on several key plays in the key third inning.
“We don’t get here if we aren’t playing clean baseball,” Crystal Lake South coach Brian Bogda said. “This may have been one of our worst games of the year. They put the pressure on us and we made some mistakes.”
DeCicco and Ysen Useni managed the only two hits for the Gators.
Crystal Lake South upset St. Viator, one of the best teams in the state, in the sectional final and knocked off Fenwick in the supersectional.