CRESTWOOD | In a season that saw frustration and struggling for the Marian Catholic baseball team, everything is coming together at the right time.
Pitcher Ben Santori was an example of that Monday night as he looked like he was cruising in a Corvette convertible on nice, sunny day.
Santori (3-2) was in control of his pitches and the game as he struck out 12 and tossed a four-hit, eight-inning shutout to lead Marian Catholic to a 1-0 win over Simeon in the Class 3A Standard Bank Supersectional.
It is the Spartans' first-ever supersectional win and Marian (23-17) will play East Suburban Catholic Conference rival Nazareth Academy at noon Friday in one semifinal of the Class 3A state finals at Joliet's Silver Cross Field.
"I am just really emotional right now," said Santori as he and his teammates celebrated their win. "It's like I can't believe it. We are just coming together and tonight was an example of it."
Santori used off-speed pitches to keep Simeon off-balance all night. He threw 109 pitches, 76 for strikes.
"My change, curve, everything was working well for me," Santori said. "I looked at the scouting report and it said they were a good fastball-hitting team, so I knew I had to have my other stuff working."
The Spartans, who won their sixth straight game, scored an unearned run in the eighth as Simeon first baseman Darien Clifton had trouble with a hit by Iowa-bound Devin Pickett. Clifton dove to first to beat a diving Pickett, but the ball came out of his hands. Pickett then stole second and with two outs, Arizona State-bound Brett Lilek singled to right and Pickett beat the throw home with a head-first slide.
"Just a little nubber and I knew I had to run hard," Pickett said. "On the run, I knew it would be close, so I knew I had to slide and slide away from where (Simeon catcher) Blake (Hickman) was set up."
It was an emotional win as Santori allowed just one extra-base hit, a sixth-inning double by Ronell Coleman and did not walk a batter. Simeon ace Darren Day (8-1) struck out six and allowed just four hits. He pitched out of bases-loaded jam in the third inning. Marian coach Phil Wail, a Marian alum big step for the program.
"It shows what we told them -- to keep playing hard and we jelled in the postseason," Wail said. "We struggled a bit, but we seem to put it together when it counted."