That is all that prevented the Fenwick High School baseball team from securing its first state trophy.
The Friars saw their finest season ever come to an end Monday with a 2-1 loss to Grayslake Central at the Class 3A North Central College Supersectional in Naperville.
The victorious Rams (29-10), who have won 21 of their last 23 games, advance to the state semifinals for the second straight year to face Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin on Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Fenwick (25-11) came up just short in its supersectional debut, stranding the tying run at second base in the top of the seventh against Grayslake Central southpaw Justin Guryn.
“It was a good game,” Fenwick coach Dave Hogan said. “Every step you take getting closer to state finals, you’re going to see better pitchers. [Guryn] had us off-balance and did a good job because we’d been averaging about 14 hits over the last three weeks.”
The Friars got six hits off Guryn (11-3), who walked three, struck out six and hit a batter. They tied the game 1-1 when Tom Planek doubled home Michael Krecek in the fifth inning, but Guryn escaped further damage by retiring Gino Cavalieri on a fly to center and Kristian Meyer on a fielder’s choice when Planek ran into a tag trying to advance to third.
Earlier in the game, the Friars had two runners picked off base by Guryn, whose team was appearing in its third consecutive supersectional.
“For most of the guys that’s the biggest game of their life as far as we hadn’t been there,” Hogan said. “I think some of our baserunning showed a little bit of nerves. The baserunning lacked a little bit of skill today because they were trying to make something happen instead of just taking a deep breath and relaxing.”
The Rams showed no such nerves in pressure situations, of which there were a few.
After Grayslake Central went ahead 2-1 on Mike Stone’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, Fenwick had the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the sixth after one-out singles by juniors Justin Rodriguez and Kevin Forde. But Guryn got Mike Neill to hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Then in the seventh, Krecek drew a lead-off walk and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Quinn Snarskis. Guryn responded by striking out Planek looking and then fanning Cavalieri with a fastball to end it.
“I think the double-play ball in the sixth inning, if the ball would have been right or left of where that tailor-made double play was, we would have scored a run because we had the jump on them,” Hogan noted.
Forde (5-2) was the hard luck loser. Despite not having his best command, he allowed only three hits. He walked four, struck out two and hit one batter.
“He usually doesn’t walk that many,” Hogan said. “Three hits is about normal for him, but what can you do? They got the timely hits.”
That was small consolation for Forde.
“We came so close [to going to state] and it’s hard to swallow right now,” Forde said. “I kind of hurt myself with all those walks. I wish I had a couple of those backs. It was a little bit of nerves.”
But the Friars will return five starters and their top three pitchers next year.
“This year we really wanted to make history, which we did, but we wanted to make it a little bit farther,” Forde said. “It’s definitely something to look forward to next year.”