At first glance, the Nazareth Academy baseball team had a pedestrian regular season with a 16-13-1 record.
However, the record is a bit deceiving considering the Roadrunners play in the East Suburban Catholic Conference (six ESCC teams won a regional) and endured their share of injuries this spring.
“Top to bottom, I think our conference is second to none,” Nazareth coach Lee Milano said. “Nobody really remembers the regular season. Our focus is to keep getting better and peak at playoff time.”
The Roadrunners have reeled off four straight victories in the IHSA Class 3A playoffs, advancing to Monday’s Naperville Supersectional at North Central College. Nazareth takes on Antioch, after the Landmark’s sports deadline.
The Roadrunners’ recent play is more reflective of the program’s tradition, which includes nine regional titles, six sectional championships and three top 4 finishes in the state playoffs over the past 13 years under Milano.
The Roadrunners defeated Ridgewood 4-2 in the Nazareth Sectional final on June 2.
“Ridgewood played a really good game. They are a well-coached team,” Milano said. “Our kids fought threw some adversity. We had contributions from several players.”
Nazareth (20-13-1) played well in all three phases of the game to pull off a win over the Ridgewood. Tied at 2-2 entering the top of the fifth inning, the Roadrunners’ Ryan Turgeon hit a two-run double down the right field line to put his team up for good at 4-2.
“In a key situation when we needed a hit, Ryan came up big for us,” Milano said. “He jumped on a first-pitch fastball with runners on first and second to give us a 4-2 lead.”
In addition to Turgeon’s game-winning hit, quality pitching and defense proved to be the difference for Nazareth.
Starting pitcher Michael Prosecky allowed two runs, two hits and struck out four in four innings. Reliever Chance Roach came on to pitch three scoreless innings.
“Michael struggled a little bit at the beginning but he gave us four good innings,” Milano said. “Chance did basically what he has done all year, which is pound the strike zone.”
Defensively, Nazareth senior Bobby Grimes made the play of the game in the bottom of the sixth. The centerfielder made a pinpoint throw from deep left center to throw out Ridgewood’s Michael Campanile at third base.
“That was the best high school defensive play I’ve ever seen,” Milano said. “Bobby is just a great athlete.”
In the fourth, second baseman Dominic Milano (Lee Milano’s son) also made a defensive gem for the Roadrunners.
Starting pitcher Dominic DeVivo went the distance for Ridgewood, allowing four runs, seven hits with seven strikeouts. Shortstop Jason Kenny had two hits, a walk and RBI to lead the Rebels offensively.
Prior to the sectional final, Nazareth won three postseason games by a combined score of 30-0.
The Roadrunners edged Montini 2-0 in the sectional semifinals as Turgeon earned the victory with seven strikeouts over five innings. Roach earned a two-inning save. Turgeon helped his cause with two RBIs.
Nazareth dominated the Elmwood Park Regional en route to the title. In the championship game, the Roadrunners defeated the host Tigers 15-0 in four innings. Andrew McKenna knocked in three runs, while Julian Lopez and Roach had two hits apiece. Roach, Prosecky and Turgeon held Elmwood Park hitless for the game.
The Roadrunners opened the playoffs with a shutout as well, a 13-0 victory over Intrinsic Charter. Lopez (5-1) tossed a two-hitter and struck out 10 over five innings. Joey Trelenberg, Turgeon and Grimes had two hits each.
While Nazareth can beat opponents with hitting and defense, the team’s pitching staff is the key to success. Turgeon and Prosecky have committed to play college baseball at Dayton and Louisville, respectively, while Roach (Carthage) and Lopez (Loras) will play at the collegiate level as well.
Pitchers Tony Siranovic, Billy Pacella, Jack Krug and Thomas Sandt also have contributed this season.
“It’s really nice to have so many options with our pitching staff,” Milano said. “Coming into the season, we knew we had every inning that was pitched last year back this spring.”