JOLIET – Of all the ways for Hampshire to lose a baseball game, an error seemed one of the most unlikely.
The Whip-Purs were playing their best defense when it counted most, having committed only three errors since the start of the Class 4A McHenry Sectional.
Yet one out away from heading to extra innings, Hampshire’s best season in school history came to an end on an error.
St. Rita took advantage of the Whips’ lone miscue in Saturday’s third-place game of the Class 4A State Tournament. An errant throw toward third base rolled into foul territory and the Mustangs’ Sean McDevitt trotted in with the deciding run in a 3-2 win at DuPage Medical Group Field.
“Our defense picked it up (in the postseason) a lot for sure,” Whips pitcher Matt Jachec said. “We haven’t had many errors. It ended on an error ironically.”
McDevitt reached first on a hit by pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning and went first-to-third on Jalen Greer’s ground ball to third baseman Logan Nespor. Nespor fired to first baseman Nick Sladek for the out and Sladek threw back to Nespor in an attempt to get McDevitt.
Sladek’s throw, however, was a bit wide and McDevitt's slide into third also made it difficult for Nespor to knock the ball down.
“I just saw (McDevitt) go and kind of threw and it didn’t work out,” Sladek said. “(Nespor) didn’t get a chance to move because of the slide.”
The play to get Greer was the second out. McDevitt was not running on the play.
“He just got a good read on it and felt like he could make it (to third),” said St. Rita coach John Nee, whose team finished 35-7.
No one on Hampshire’s side faulted Sladek’s effort.
“It’s baseball. It happened,” Whips coach Frank Simoncelli said. “A little uncharacteristic for this playoff run, we’ve been playing lights out (on defense). We tried to make a play and it didn’t work.”
Hampshire (22-16) took the lead in the first inning on Caden Pyszka’s two-out, two-run triple to left field. Pyszka hit a slicing line drive to left field to drive in the runs.
“It was a curveball outside and I just went with it to that side,” Pyszka said. “It was tailing a lot, so I thought it was down.”
That was all the Whips could get off four St. Rita pitchers. It was almost enough for Jachec, who allowed only four earned runs in 32 1/3 postseason innings.
“I was just trying to do what I always do, it’s worked all year,” Jachec said. “It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted.”
St. Rita scored a run in the third, then tied the score in the sixth. Hampshire was hoping to get its top of the order another shot in the eighth inning. Hampshire finished sixth in the Fox Valley Conference, then made school history with its tournament run.
“It was fun,” Sladek said. “We came out, we did good, it didn’t turn out like we expected, again, but it was a good weekend.”
Hampshire was the third FVC team in a row to reach the state tournament. Crystal Lake South won the Class 4A state title in 2017 and Huntley was 4A runner-up last year.
“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” Simoncelli said. “I’m super-proud of these guys. They played with their hearts. That’s what they did every single game. We lost here 2-0 and 3-2, it was a battle. I can’t ask anything more than that from them, they made my job easy.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Matt Jachec, Hampshire, sr., P
Jachec allowed two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings and struck out six in the final game of his high school career.
4: Walks issued by Jachec in 32 1/3 postseason innings.
AND ANOTHER THING...
Jachec did a good job with Mustangs shortstop Jalen Greer, who was drafted this week in the fifth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft by Oakland. Greer was 0 for 4, but his last ground ball started the game-winning play.
St. Rita 3, Hampshire 2
Hampshire 200 000 0 – 2 5 1
St. Rita 001 001 1 – 3 8 1
WP: Luke Carroll 5-1 (1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 1K). LP: Matt Jachec, 7-4 (6.2IP, 8H, 3R, 2ER, 2BB, 6K).
Top hitters–Hampshire: Caden Pyszka 2-3 (3B, 2RBIs), Gavin Kriegel 1-3 (3B), Andy Krajecki 1-3 (R). St. Rita: Sean McDevitt 1-3 (RBI, R), Luke Napleton 2-3.