Class 1A baseball: Alec Novotney’s 17 Ks, big third inning lift Marquette past Serena

Sophomore spins 3-hitter for Crusaders’ 8th straight regional title

The Marquette Crusaders defeated Serena, 7-0, to claim their eighth consecutive Class 1A regional championship. The 26-2 Crusaders will face Winnetka North Shore Country Day at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Elgin Harvest Christian Sectional.

SERENA – When asked if Saturday’s Class 1A Serena Regional championship game win over Serena was the best game he’d ever pitched, Marquette Academy’s Alec Novotney broke into an embarrassed smile.

“Yeah, probably,” the soft-spoken sophomore said.

Actually, he’d be hard pressed to find a better one, on his or anyone else’s resumè.

Novotney fired off a three-hit shutout at the host Huskers, striking out a whopping 17 of them on the Crusaders’ way to a 7-0 victory and a spot in the Elgin Harvest Christian Sectional.

His teammates staked him to a lead with a five-run third inning and a two-run sixth. Keaton Davis drove in a combined three runs in those innings off Serena losing pitcher Beau Raikes and reliever Hunter Staton.

The verdict gave the Cru – now 26-2 – its eighth consecutive regional crown and kept alive its chance for its fourth state finals finish in the last six years. That quest continues in the Elgin Sectional semifinal at 4 p.m. Wednesday against Winnetka North Shore Country Day, which defeated Deerfield Rochelle Zell, 10-0, in its own regional on Friday afternoon.

It was Novotney’s 93-pitch effort that stopped surging Serena (14-13).

“Alec showed a lot of heart for just a sophomore. He’s been good all year, but he’s peaking at the right time,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “He was fantastic, pounding the zone, getting all his pitches over and we did just enough to win the game. We had the one big inning and were able to tack on,. We had other opportunities, but that’s credit to Serena. We saw them early in the year and they’ve made huge improvements. I will miss competing against their seniors, Staton, [Carson] Baker and [Tanner] Faivre … and [Serena coach] Chad [Baker, who is retiring after 26 years at the Serena helm].

“I’m thrilled for our guys because after the losses we had through graduation, no one was expecting much from them, but we’ve had a heckuva year so far and we want to keep it going.”

Novotney, who threw one inning of relief against Serena in an 11-1 MA win back on March 21, was in command from the start, striking out the side in the first. He surrendered a leadoff single to Raikes in the second, but he was erased after straying too far off first base on a strikeout pitch in the dirt.

That double play helped Novotney face the minimum through six innings before a string of seven straight strikeouts was broken up by singles by Faivre and Baker to start the seventh.

But Novotney fanned the next two hitters before inducing a grounder for the final out.

“I was just trying to get ahead in every at bat and trying for the whiff after that,” Novotney said. “I was able to use my slider, throwing it in the dirt to get them to chase it, or use my fastball as a freeze pitch after throwing off-speed earlier in the at bat. That’s what I always try to do and it’s been working for me.”

In MA’s decisive third, Grant Dose led off with a walk and Novotney reached on an erred bunt to start things. After a Carson Zellers sacrifice, Sam Mitre drove in the first run with a single to right, with Novotney also scoring on a misplay in the outfield for a 2-0 edge.

Davis then clubbed an RBI double and, after a walk to Griffin Dobberstein, Anthony Couch drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Charlie Mullen singled in the final run of the inning.

MA added on in the seventh, Zellers and Mitre scoring on Davis’s two-run double.

“I knew it would be tough and that we’d have to score a few runs, but that five spot put us behind the 8-ball and we really couldn’t do much about it,” Chad Baker said. “I was really proud of Beau for putting up zeroes on either side of that.

“But Novotney’s a heckuva pitcher. He’s not just a thrower, he’s a pitcher. I hadn’t seen him pitch, but I knew he was their ace and what we were up against. He mixed it up real well and never developed a pattern, it was all well mixed. We were outmatched. He had our number, for sure.

“We finished the season strong … And that’s a wrap for me. Not the way a coach likes to go out, but I’m proud of these boys and the season we’ve had.”

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