NEW LENOX | Imagine what Marian Catholic pitcher Brett Lilek is like when he does have a good pre-start warmup.
Lilek said his pre-game tosses were not very good Saturday morning prior to the Class 3A Lincoln-Way West Sectional final against the host school, but like his teammates, the senior found his best play when it really mattered.
Lilek struck out a season-high 15 Lincoln-Way West batters and was supported with clutch hitting that combined to give the Spartans an 11-2 win and their first-ever baseball sectional title. The Spartans (22-17), owners of a five-game winning streak, advance to the Standard Bank Supersectional at 5 p.m. Monday. They will face Simeon with a trip to the Class 3A state semifinals on the line.
"This is amazing," said junior Patrick Swanson, who had three hits and scored four times Saturday. "I've never been in a baseball game that has been this fun and this important, and I know that my team is right there with me."
The Spartans broke open a 2-2 game with four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Mitchell Weissenhofer, Robby Cifelli and Swanson walked to load the bases with one out. Devin Pickett then singled home courtesy runner Trevor Mesko and Cifelli. Brad Bohlen drove in another run with a sacrifice fly and a two-out RBI double by Patrick Schmidt gave the Spartans a 6-2 lead.
It was all the offense the team would need with Lilek in full command on the mound.
Lilek, an Arizona State recruit, allowed the Warriors only three hits. The left-handed pitcher from South Holland retired the final 10 batters he faced during his complete-game effort. Both of the runs Lilek gave up in the top of the fourth inning were unearned.
"The ball was moving all over the place, and I was thinking, 'All right, this could be a rough one,'" Lilek said of his warmup throws. "I went out there and corrected it on the mound, and everything went well ... the fastball pitch inside, I was able to locate every time I needed it."
Pickett, Bohlen, Schmidt and sixth-inning pinch hitter Brent Feldner each had two-RBI games for the Spartans.
"We were threatened by them early in the game, but we didn't give up," said Spartans coach Phil Wail, whose team added five runs in the sixth inning. "We knew if we kept pressure on them, we'd take care of business."