Sandburg pitcher Ethan Highfill gets Marist's Aiden Cech to swing and miss on a pitch during a 7-3 Eagles' victory on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Sandburg pitcher Ethan Highfill gets Marist's Aiden Cech to swing and miss on a pitch during a 7-3 Eagles' victory on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Baseball | Sandburg tops Marist to open playoffs, but falls to LW West in regional final

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By Xavier Sanchez
Correspondent

For the second consecutive year, Sandburg’s season came to an end at the hands of Lincoln-Way West.

The Eagles (21-12) fell to the Warriors, 6-1, in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional championship game on May 25. They had advanced to a second playoff game with a 7-3 comeback victory over Marist on May 23.

In the regional semifinals, the RedHawks went to work early, capitalizing on multiple errors in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. John McAulliffe drove in the first run of the game on an RBI single that scored Brendan Doran. McCaulliffe and pinch-runner Emmitt Senger would later score.

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Sandburg’s Aiden Barrera avoids the tag and scores a run during a 7-3 win over Marist on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Marist could not keep the momentum going, and the Eagles got it going at the plate and on defense, while Nick Bestrick settled in on the mound. Bestrick had two 1-2-3 innings, including a top of the third that shifted momentum the Sandburg’a way.

Bestrick, the ace of the Sandburg pitching staff, tossed 6 ⅔ innings, allowing one earned run and striking out eight batters to improve to 9-0.

“He really dialed in and held down the fort for us,” said Eagles’ second baseman Michael Stapleton. “We really love him on the team.”

“He is just tough to hit,” added Sandburg head coach Jim Morsovillo. “He is 9-0 for a reason. He’s tough. He gave us a chance to get in it and stay in it.”

Bestrick was none too pleased with how things started for him on the mound.

“I did not really have it,” said Bestrick of his first-inning command issues.

Sandburg turned the tide in the bottom of the fifth inning, when three straight Eagles batters laid down bunts. Among those was an RBI bunt single by Stapleton and a go-ahead RBI bunt single by Ryan Evoy.

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Sandburg’s Ryan Elleweit gets back to the bag on a pickoff attempt during the Eagles’ 7-3 win over Marist in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional semifinals on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

“We work hard on our bunting and our small-ball stuff,” Morsovillo said. “We needed to use it today and our guys executed.”

Sandburg tacked on three runs in the sixth on a series of passed balls by Marist.

Sandburg designated hitter Nick Morsovillo led the Eagles with three hits, one RBI and two runs. Catcher Ryan Ullewiet was 3-for-4 with two runs, while Stapleton finished 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Marist junior southpaw Aiden Flinn dazzled through the first two innings, keeping the Eagles scoreless and striking out four. Flinn finished with seven strikeouts, but Sandburg eventually got to him for four earned runs over his five innings of work.

The RedHawks’ strong start and disappointing finish to the game was a common occurrence this season.

“This game is exactly how we played a lot of games this year,” said Marist head coach Kevin Sefcik. “We did not really hit or get our bunts down, and they did. We did not get any 1-2-3 innings on defense and resulted in long innings and guys always on base.”

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Marist pitcher Aiden Flinn delivers a pitch during the RedHawks’ 7-3 loss to Sandburg on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

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