1A baseball: 3s are wild as Marquette wins sectional semi over Country Day

Carson Zellers pitches, Cru score in bunches for 10-0 win

Marquette Academy senior Carson Zellers

ELGIN – Marquette Academy senior Carson Zellers wears the uniform No. 3 because it feels lucky to him.

As it turned out Wednesday afternoon in the Elgin Harvest Christian 1A Sectional semifinals, that digit was pretty lucky for the rest of the Crusaders too.

Zellers, who fired four shutout innings in the Serena Regional-opening win over Newark last week, turned in another outstanding pitching performance for the Cru against Winnetka North Shore Country Day, firing off six scoreless innings and allowing just two hits while striking out nine.

Meanwhile, he and his teammates scored exactly three runs in each of the first three innings on their way to a six-inning, 10-0 victory over the Raiders at Hoffer Field on the campus of Judson University.

The victory sends MA into Saturday’s sectional championship game.

“Three has always been my lucky number, but even more so today, I guess,” Zellers said with a beaming smile. “I always have confidence in my team, but once we got the first run in the first, it was a big relief to me. It helped me move forward. …

“The first two innings I struggled a bit, but after that everything was working – fastball, changeup, curveball, everything was working.

“We all remember what happened here last year. This year, we’ve come in with a chip on our shoulder, and we’re determined to do better.”

Saturday’s appearance will mark the fifth time in the last six seasons a Todd Hopkins-coached Marquette baseball team has reached the Sweet 16, the only miss coming last year on that same field a in a heartbreaking 3-2, 10-inning semifinal loss to Chicago Hope Academy.

“That was an awful feeling, but we’ve got to flush that and be ready to play, like we were today. ...” Hopkins said. “Carson did a heck of a job, and we played good baseball today. No matter who we play [Harvest Christian won the late semifinal] Saturday, we’ll be the underdog for the first time in a while. We have to relish it, absorb it and come out throwing haymakers. Period. End of story.”

Zellers issued his only walk in the first inning, and the only hits he allowed came with two outs in the third, to No. 9 hitter Nikash Rawa and leadoff man Aram Dombalagian. He got a popout to end that threat and allowed only two more balls to be put in play over the last three frames.

By then, the Marquette senior had a sizable lead to work with. In the first, Alec Novotney and Zellers each reached on infield singles and eventually scored on a wild throw to first base and a wild pitch, both by NSCD starter Trafton O’Brien. Sam Mitre added the first of his three hits and later scored the third run on a single by Griffin Dobberstein.

In the second, an infield hit by Charlie Mullen, an RBI triple by Jaxson Higgins, a run-scoring grounder by Grant Dose and an RBI bouncer by Zellers made it 6-0.

Then in the third, a Keaton Davis double and a wild pitch that scored courtesy runner Payton Gutierrez, a walk to Dobberstein and an RBI two-bagger by Anthony Couch added on. Mullen notched the ninth run with a grounder to short.

Dobberstein ended the game in the sixth, following a Zellers double, a Mitre infield single and an intentional walk to Davis with the Cru’s sixth infield hit of the day.

“We’re not really a nervous team, because we’ve been in tight situations before, but they just pressed us today, and we didn’t make the plays we needed to,” Raiders coach Paul Kosinski said. “They hit 1-9, the entire lineup. They did the job. There are no holes there.

“And (Zellers), he’s gotta be one of the top three guys to pitch against us this season. You can’t sit on either pitch with him. He was legit. I don’t know if he’s always legit, but he was legit today.”

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