JOLIET | Brett Lilek made it look easy.
The senior lefty was dominating in an 11-strikeout performance Friday afternoon to lead Marian Catholic to a 3-0 win over East Suburban Conference rival Nazareth Academy in one IHSA Class 3A semifinal at Silver Cross Field.
The Spartans (24-17) won their seventh straight and will play LaSalle-Peru at 11 a.m. today for the state championship. It is the first time Marian will play for a state baseball title.
The school is looking to win just the second team title in school history. The football team won the 1994 Class 4A title.
Lilek said he was ready to pitch and getting a 1-0 lead helped.
“I was excited more than nervous,” Lilek said. “I got to relax a little bit because when one run crosses the plate, it's not that big of a deal. I was using that one run as leverage. I wanted to see if we can get a 1-0 victory and we got two more.”
The Arizona State recruit gave up just two hits, while also walking four. He did not allow a runner past first base until the sixth inning.
The Roadrunners hit just three balls out of the infield and Lilek struck out eight through four innings. He was clocked between 86 and 89 mph on most of his pitches.
“We have had good pitching (through the tournament),” Marian coach Phil Wail said. “Brett was on today and really stepped it up.”
The two teams split their two regular-season meetings. Lilek did not face the Roadrunners in either game.
Marian pitchers have thrown shutouts in three of the last four games with Lilek having two of them. He gave up two unearned runs in the Lincoln-Way Sectional win over the host Warriors.
Nazareth pitcher Jake Bartels said Lilek kept them guessing the whole game.
“He threw several changes, and he hit his spots,” Bartels said. “He was in control and he was on.”
The Spartans scored in the second as Lilek singled and Eric Hurley ran for him. Erik Callaghan followed with a triple, scoring Hurley. It was the first of three Marian triples.
Robby Cifelli led off the bottom of the third with a home run, the first of his prep career.
“I didn't even know what it feels like,” he said. “I didn't know it was gone. I was gonna try to get three (bases) on it. It was just a special moment."
Lilek drove in the third and final run with a sacrifice fly, scoring Pat Schmidt, who led off the sixth with a triple.