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TROPHY – St. Laurence players gather around the third-place trophy Thursday after a 10-6 victory over Washington. It’s the fourth trophy the baseball team brought home in program history. Photo by Jeff Vorva

TROPHY – St. Laurence players gather around the third-place trophy Thursday after a 10-6 victory over Washington. It’s the fourth trophy the baseball team brought home in program history. Photo by Jeff Vorva

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Quick Turnaround: St. Laurence rebounds after semifinal loss to take third in Class 3A

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

Normally, the IHSA state baseball format lasts two days.

The semifinals are usually held on Friday, with the championship and third-place games on Saturday.

Because of COVID-19 concerns, the IHSA rejiggered the format this season to make it a one-day tournament. The Class 3A portion took place on June 17 at Wintrust Stadium in Schaumburg.

That gave St. Laurence, who lost a 6-4 eight-inning heartbreaker to Springfield in the second semifinal, mere minutes to get ready for the third-place game.

The deflated Vikings (27-9) fell behind 6-2 to downstate Washington early, and it looked like they were going to suffer a pair of losses to end the season.

But they chipped away, then exploded for six runs in the top of the fifth and went on to beat the Panthers, 10-6.

No one in Vikings circles was saying “Come on, guys let’s win that third-place trophy!” before the tournament began, but the win did help take away a little of the sting from the Springfield loss.

“It was hard — I think I was still in a daze,” Viking coach Pete Lotus said. “We showed tons of character. When we lost [a semifinal] in 2017, at least we had a day to kind of think about things and had a chance to go back to school and take batting practice and had a chance to talk.

“Today was just, boom, here we go. They are asking me for a lineup and my head was still wrapped around these guys after that first game.”

 

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Johnny Wendling of St. Laurence connects and drives in a run against Washington in a 10-6 victory in the state’s Class 3A third-place game in Schaumburg. Photo by Jeff Vorva

The deflating semifinal loss was bad enough and they didn’t want to compound things by getting drilled in the third-place game so things started to click after getting down four runs early.

“We were upset, but we felt like we were still in it,” said Johnny Wendling, who two drove in two runs in each game. “We just wanted to have fun with our team. It was the last time we were going to play together so we wanted to play hard and end it on a good note.”

“We started out a little shaky and then we pulled through and got some hits and just kept putting up runs,” added junior Jalen Headly, who drove in a pair of runs in the third-place game. “We felt let down early but it took some people to come through with their at-bats and got people people happy about something.”

Jimmy Gurgone, who also drove in two against Washington, was one of those people.

“In my heart we put everything into this season,” Gurgone said. “On the day, we gave it our all and as a senior, I was happy we could go out with a ‘W.’”

Relief pitchers Ryan Carroll, Ty Czub and Morgan McFarlane combined to throw 5 2/3 scoreless innings to help the Vikings win. Mike Laudando cracked three hits.

The day got started on a big note for the Vikings. They opened the game scoring two runs and had a 4-2 lead after four innings in the semifinal against Springfield.

But Springfield had four straight come-from-behind postseason wins over Jacksonville (15-5), Mahomet Seymour (7-3), Chatham Glenwood (13-12) and Charleston (7-5) heading into the game.

The Senators put another notch in their belt, scoring once in the fifth, once in the seventh and two in the eighth, while relief pitcher Ben Hartl hurled 4 2/3rd scoreless innings in an economical 57 pitches.

But they weren’t through. No, sir, Senator.

The Senators faced a quick 6-0 deficit against Prairie Ridge in the championship game and rallied to win, 8-7, to bring home the first-place trophy.

Kevin McCormick scored twice against Springfield (31-5).

St. Laurence reached the semifinals beating Marian Catholic 5-2 on June 14 in supersectional action at Ozinga Field in Crestwood as Laudando struck out 11 batters and scored a pair of runs. McCormick, Jason Krol and Angelo Luna drove in runs.

They had beaten Marmion, Benet, Nazareth in regional and sectional play by a combined score of 28-3.

The Vikings have had a host of talented teams over the years and a host of rough luck during the playoffs.

They made it to the state finals four prior times. In Class AA, they qualified in 1987 and did not place. They qualified in 1993 and finished third.

After a 14-year gap, and a change in the IHSA to a four-class system, they were back in the Class 4A playoffs and placed third in 2017 and in 2019 they made it to the Class 3A title game before dropping a 6-3 decision to Montini.

 

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St. Laurence sophomore pitcher Danny Helwig delivers in the first inning of the IHSA Class 3A third-place game on Thursday. Photo by Jeff Vorva

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