Baseball: Nazareth’s Marske relishes back-to-back State trips
Nazareth's Ryan Marske is met at home after hitting a home run in Nazareth's 2-1 win over Triad. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 2:30PM
Senior Ryan Marske will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Nazareth baseball team’s first-ever trip to the state tournament last season.
There was still a sense of disappointment, however, considering the Roadrunners lost both games to finish fourth.
He enjoyed the final game of his impressive high school career much better Saturday when the Roadrunners beat Troy Triad 2-1 in the Class 3A third-place game in Joliet. Nazareth lost to eventual champion Marian Catholic 3-0 in Friday’s semifinal.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Marske said. “Obviously we wanted to be in the championship game, but it was a much better feeling coming off the field with a third-place trophy this time. I think everyone on the team believed we could do it. All 18 guys worked so hard in the offseason so we could get back to State. Once we got some confidence, things kept going well for us.”
Marske’s only regret is that he didn’t get to pitch at State this season.
The Miami of Ohio recruit was shut down because of an arm strain for the final six weeks as a precaution.
“Last year was really fun pitching,” said Marske, who hit .362 with a team-best three home runs and 31 RBI. “This weekend I was thinking about how bad I wanted to pitch, but I did all right hitting. I’ll never forget the run we had and all the memories. I was just trying to take it all in after the last game because I knew it would be the last time together with the guys and my last time playing high school baseball. It went by so quick.”
Despite graduating every starting position player from last year’s state team, Nazareth still managed to go 31-10 and improve its state finish this season.
“What an accomplishment for the entire group of kids,” Nazareth coach Lee Milano said. “It’s a testament to the kids’ work ethic and commitment to believing what we were trying to teach them. It all comes down to them.
“There’s always the unknown before the season starts. Even last year, coming off the summer state title, you don’t know what will happen in the spring. You don’t know what injuries you will have or how kids will step up. I thought we had a talented group, but you still have to see what they do on the field. We had so many kids step up this season.”
Nazareth will graduate seniors Marske, Dominic Purpura, Eddie Gengo, Anthony Tapia, Marc Perrone, Sean Maloney, Tim Getty and John D’Onofrio.
The future looks bright for the Roadrunners, who had sophomores Jake Bartels (pitcher, first base) and Tim DalPorto (shortstop) in the starting lineup Saturday, along with juniors Kyle Piotrowski (third base), Mike Stromberg (catcher). Marc Noesen (left field) and Chaz Usher (right field).
“It was a great accomplishment as a team,” Bartels said. “Nobody thought we’d have a shot after pretty much losing our entire lineup and graduating some really good players. We were able to prove the entire state of Illinois wrong and finish better than last year. We had a phenomenal year.
“We have a lot of guys coming back. We graduate some great seniors who had a big role, but we’re returning some good players and I definitely think we can make another run.”