Baseball: Purpura sizzles as Nazareth takes 3rd
Nazareth players Kyle Piotrowski and Michael Kogut carry the IHSA Class 3A third-place trophy to the dugout. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 2:43PM
After graduating its entire starting lineup from last season’s Class 3A fourth-place squad, many thought this would be a rebuilding year for the Nazareth. Remarkably, coach Lee Milano had his team full of sophomores and juniors back in Joliet competing for another state trophy.
One of the few seniors, left-hander Dominic Purpura, made sure Saturday that the Roadrunners would leave Silver Cross Field with a victory this time around. Purpura carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning as he completely handcuffed high-scoring Triad 2-1 in the Class 3A third-place game.
“Coming into this year we had no pressure,” said Purpura, who is signed with Carthage College. “Unlike last year when we had some pressure on us. … I couldn’t go 0-4 on this field.”
The 6-4, 205-pound Purpura (10-1) held a Triad (32-10) team that had averaged 11 runs in the playoffs to only two hits, both in the seventh inning. Purpura struck out four, walked four — two of which he summarily picked off — and had his no-hitter broken up when Triad catcher Dylan Johnson lined a single up the middle to lead off the inning.
“I give all the credit to our defense,” said Purpura, who coincidentally had his no-hit bid broken up in the seventh inning of the sectional semifinal win over Glenbard South. “Every single out is a credit to the defense.
“Usually it is a relief, but this time I was like ‘Oh crap.’ I just went back to plan one, which is to get outs.”
Senior designated hitter Ryan Marske staked Nazareth (31-10) to a 1-0 lead when he launched a home run to right field. The Roadrunners took a 2-0 lead in the third inning when slick-fielding sophomore shortstop Tim DalPorto led off with a single, advanced to third on Marske’s bloop double, and scored on a wild pitch. Marske finished 2-for-3.
Triad scored its lone run on a bloop single over first base after the no-hitter was broken up. Purpura then got a fly out to left field to put the finishing touches on Nazareth’s surprising season.
“I don’t think many people thought we’d be sitting here again this weekend,” said Nazareth coach Lee Milano. “It’s a credit to these kids and their hard work.”
In the semifinals on Friday, the Roadrunners were on the losing end of a dominant performance in a 3-0 loss to Marian Catholic.
Marians’ Brett Lilek was dominant on the mound, allowing two hits and striking out 11, as the Spartans blanked East Suburban Catholic Conference rival Nazareth 3-0 Friday afternoon in the Class 3A state semifinals at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Lilek (7-4) is an Arizona State recruit who was drafted in the 37th round of last week’s draft by the Seattle Mariners. He lived up to that resume on Friday in his first outing against Nazareth since 2010.
“High-end Division I guy,” Nazareth coach Lee Milano said. “If he hadn’t been shut down five weeks of the season, he probably would have been a higher round pick. … It’s tough enough to hit him when he doesn’t have command.
“But he had command today.”
“He was just hitting his spots really well, moving the ball up, down,” Bartels said. “He was changing up his offspeed. He was really keeping us off-balance as hitters.”
Marian, meanwhile, was scratching away against Bartels (7-3).
Lilek (2-for-2, RBI) singled with one out in the second and pinch-runner Eric Hurley scored on a triple to left-center by Erik Callaghan (2-for-3, RBI).
The Spartans made it 2-0 in the third when senior Rob Cifelli (2-for-3, run, RBI) hit his first prep homer to the Bud Beach, a small seating area in front of the main wall in right field.
“I didn’t think it was gone,” Cifelli said. “I don’t even know what that feels like.”
“Off the bat, I thought, ‘Maybe this is just going to be a popout,’ ” Bartels said. “Then I saw our right fielder going back (and thought), ‘It’s going on the beach.’ ”
Pat Schmidt’s leadoff triple to right and Lilek’s sacrifice fly in the sixth accounted for Marian’s final run and the Spartans’ ace did the rest.
“When Brett pitches, it’s especially challenging because you don’t want to wait back on your heels,” Cifelli said. “Last year you’d see a lot of errors because guys wouldn’t be expecting the ball. This year we’ve definitely turned that around.”
Lilek struck out the side in the fourth and seventh. He walked four, hit one and committed two balks, but picked off one runner and allowed just two runners past first base.
“I was excited more than nervous,” he said. “I’m doing it for my team. I wanted to get a state bid and we did. Now I want us to win State.”
Bartels went the distance, allowing eight hits and two walks, while striking out four.
Despite the loss, Nazareth was assured of its second consecutive state trophy.
The Roadrunners lost senior right fielder Sean Maloney to a dislocated shoulder in the fifth inning, Maloney, who originally dislocated his shoulder in the first game of the season and returned a week later, was injured while trying to catch Devin Pickett’s triple.