Jay Militello made sure he went out swinging.
The Fenwick senior ripped a pinch-hit, run-scoring triple in the final at-bat of his high school career Monday to score Anthony Cavalieri, who had doubled.
Unfortunately for the Friars, it was the last hurrah for Militello and his teammates, who saw their improbable playoff run end with a 12-4 loss to St. Viator at the Class 3A North Central College Supersectional in Naperville.
“It was nice,” said the Lewis-bound Militello, who expects to be used primarily as a pitcher in college. “I definitely went up my last at-bat thinking I’m going to give it all I got.”
Fenwick (20-20) got off to one of the worst starts in Dave Hogan’s 33-year coaching career, but overcame inexperience and ineptitude to play its best ball when it mattered most.
The Friars won just their second sectional title despite having only one senior starting position player and a losing record in the regular season.
“I’m surprised we made this run,” Militello said. “It’s the first sectional championship I’ve ever gotten, personally.
“We had a 10-game losing streak and a lot of downs, but (the) Disney (trip) in the beginning of the year was a lot of fun, brought a lot of memories. In the postseason I thought we finished strong.”
But the Friars were never in contention against St. Viator (25-15), which advanced to the state semifinals for the first time.
Fenwick starter Adam Williams failed to get out of the second inning, during which the Lions scored six runs. Williams beaned leadoff batter Brett DeSelm and gave up an infield hit before a routine double play ball was booted.
Mike Ragauskis had a three-run double and St. Viator pitcher Cole Kmet added a two-run homer. Jack Sexton’s RBI double made it 6-0, chasing Williams.
“How do you get (a) 1-and-2 (count) and then hit a guy in the head,” Hogan said. “And then we couldn’t turn a double play. Before I had a chance to go to the bullpen, it was 6-0.”
But the Friars battled back against Kmet, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior who has committed to Notre Dame for football.
Kmet struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings, but gave up three runs and seven hits. Michael Florito hit an inside-the-park home run to get Fenwick on the board in the bottom of the third and sophomore Alex Pup lined a two-run triple in the fifth to score Cavalieri, who went 3-for-4, and Sherman Martin to make it 6-3 and knock out Kmet.
“We just needed to get our first look at him,” said Cavalieri, a junior shortstop who went 3-for-4 with two runs. “Then we figured out what his stuff did and we started to ambush him,
“It started going our way a little. We fought, but at the end of the day it didn’t go our way.”
The Lions, who had 15 hits, answered by scoring two in the sixth and four in the seventh to put the game away.
Thus ended one of the stranger seasons of Hogan’s career.
“Back in April the dam had broke in so many spots we didn’t have enough fingers,” Hogan said. “The defense, the pitching, the hitting, everybody was trying too hard.
“All of a sudden it just clicked. When they found out they could play with the big boys, we put it all together.”
One of the sparks was the call-up of sophomores Alex Pup, Jack Grace and Mike Cerceo, all of whom joined the starting lineup and stayed there.
Cerceo started behind the plate against St. Viator, while Grace and Pup played first and second base, respectively.
“A lot of people don’t realize we’ve got three sophomores and only one senior (in the starting lineup), so we were learning as we were going,” Hogan said. “We knew there would be some glitches, but to get down to the final eight speaks well.”
Grace drew two walks against Kmet, helping run Kmet’s pitch count to 101, while Pup went 2-for-3, punctuating his triple with some fist-pumping, and Cerceo was 1-for-3.
“They really made an impact,” Militello said. “(Cerceo) did a really good job, definitely took command behind the plate. At first he was a little shaky but he really grew his confidence.”
Militello and Hogan are confident the youngsters are only going to get better.
“Definitely,” Militello said. “They’re going to have a lot of returning starters next year. I’ll forward to watching them play next year.”
Hogan is looking forward to coaching the Friars.
“I know there’s a lot of tears now, but for goodness sake, you got down to the final eight,” Hogan said. “I don’t want to lose, but you could see the hunger in the younger guys that are going to be back next year.”