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OTTAWA — St. Bede senior Damin Smith and Marquette junior Patrick Killelea battled on the mound in a hard-fought pitcher’s duel Saturday in the championship tilt of the Class 2A Marquette Regional.
In the end, Smith and the Bruins came up with just enough offense to claim a 2-1 win over their Catholic counterparts at Ottawa’s Masinelli Field.
With the victory, St. Bede (19-2) advances to the Class 2A Seneca Sectional where the Bruins will face Beecher — 5-0 winners over Momence on Saturday in the title game of the Momence Regional — at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Smith, who upped his perfect record on the mound to 8-0 with the win, allowed just one earned run and four hits while striking out four in a complete game.
“We had good defense behind us today. We made a lot of plays on the field that helped us win the game,” said Smith. “Our offense can get better, but we pulled it through, so that’s all we needed.”
Killelea fought valiantly in the tough-luck loss.
The Crusader hurler gave up five hits and two runs — one earned — over six innings with two strikeouts and one walk.
“I’m real proud of (Killelea). Coming into the year, we didn’t think he’d throw many innings and he ended up throwing in the regional final,” said Marquette coach Todd Hopkins, whose squad finishes 25-8. “He kept a good hitting team at bay. They got one more than we did, but I thought we played a good game.”
Smith helped his own cause at the plate to get the Bruins on the board in the second inning.
St. Bede No. 6 hitter Brandon Pietrowski started the scoring sequence with a one-out single to left, and Jake Postula joined him on base after an error on a fielder’s choice ground ball to short.
Steven Ebener then loaded the bases with a single to right, setting up Smith for a sacrifice fly that he drove to right field to bring in Pietrowski for the game’s first run.
The Bruins got the last of their offense in the third inning.
Senior No. 3 hitter Brad Groleau drew a one-out walk from Killelea and took second with two outs when Logan Bima was hit by a pitch
Pietrowksi then came up with his second hit of the contest — a single to right field — to knock home Groleau for what proved to be the winning run.
After being stifled offensively for the first five innings, the Crusaders put some pressure on in the sixth.
Skippy Martini led off with a walk, and cleanup hitter Curtiss Johnson joined him on base after getting plunked by a pitch.
Bruin catcher Logan Bima was able to gun down Martini at third on a double steal attempt, and a pop up to right field for the second out seemed to show the Bruins were once again going to extinguish any fireworks from the Cru offense.
But freshman Evan Snyder delivered a clutch two-out RBI single to center to drive in Johnson from second and breathe new life into the Crusaders.
Unfortunately for the home team, Elliot Kowalksi’s single to left was all the further offense it could manage as Smith coaxed a pop up to end the inning.
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth for St. Bede, the Crusaders again went right to work as C.J. Norman led off the top of the seventh with a grounder single through the right side of the infield.
Austin McDonnell quickly followed with his third successful sacrifice bunt of the contest to move Norman into scoring position at second with no outs.
Undeterred by the late threat, Smith struck out Killelea and Martini on seven pitches to close out the regional championship.
“You’ve got to give Damin credit, he made some good pitches and we were able to make enough plays behind him to get the win,” St. Bede coach John Bellino said. “He’s a senior, he’s supposed to be our No. 1, so he’s got to go out and get it.”
Pietrowski led the Bruins at the plate with a 2-for-3 performance with a run scored and an RBI. Ebener also finished 2-of-3 for the Bruins. No Crusaders managed multiple hits.
“(The title) means all our hard work has paid off. We have the potential to go pretty far if we set our mind to it,” Pietrowski said.
Chris Yucus can be reached at220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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