1A sectional baseball: Alec Novotney, Marquette stay hot, edge Harvest Christian for sectional title

Sophomore throws 2-hitter, drives in run for 1-0 victory

Marquette celebrates the win over Harvest Christian at the Class 1A Sectional Final on Saturday May 25, 2024 in Elgin.

ELGIN – One run is not that much in a high school baseball game, but the way Alec Novotney is pitching and the way his Marquette Academy teammates are playing defense behind him, it was plenty.

Novotney, who just a week ago shut out Serena in a regional final, spun the Cru’s third shutout in four postseason games that. With a little help from his defense, it became a two-hit, 1-0 gem of a sectional final win over Harvest Christian on Saturday at Judson University.

And for good measure, Novotney drove in the only run of the game, a decision that sends Marquette (28-2) into the Rockford Rivets Supersectional against East Dubuque at 1 p.m. Monday.

The Crusaders themselves managed only three hits other than Novotney’s RBI hit – singles by Carson Zellers and Keaton Davis in the third inning and by Grant Dose in the fourth – off Harvest Christian pitchers Kaden Meeker and Ben Mitchell, who together stranded 10 baserunners in the second through fifth innings.

But though Novotney managed just seven strikeouts compared to the whopping 17 he had against Serena, he’ll happily take the one run and the win.

“I’m definitely going uphill at this point in the season,” Novotney said. “I’m just trying to do better every start, to do better every time, to give us a chance to win and keep going. Right now, I’m getting ahead earlier [in the count] than I was earlier this season, and I’ve worked on my slider and it’s a lot better now, giving me more strikeouts.

“Their hitters one through five had the power to hit it out, so I tried to get them to take bad swings that they don’t want to take and hit pitches they don’t want to hit.”

The Crusaders came close to not scoring at all in the decisive fourth inning. With one out, Charlie Mullen was hit by a pitch and Jaxsen Higgins attempted to sacrifice bunt. His tapper was fielded by Meeker and thrown well over the head of first baseman Hayden Mosley, allowing Mullen to race all the way around to home.

However, the home plate umpire ruled Higgins had run inside the baseline and was out for interference, with Mullen returned to first, now with two outs.

But on this day, that was no problem for the Cru.

Dose followed with a single to left before Novotney ripped a ball down the left field line for a single that scored Mullen.

“When you leave as many base runners on base the way we did today, you’re not supposed to win,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said, “but Alec came up with the big hit in that situation … Novotney, he was unbelievable today.

“If we played Harvest Christian in a seven-game series, we wouldn’t stand a chance – they have six guys playing next year already and have four legit guys throwing 85 miles an hour – but somehow we gutted it out. It’s nice that fortune was on our side today.”

The only hit Novotney surrendered in the first six innings was a blooper by No. 8 hitter Charlie Smerek that dropped in front of Dose in center for a hit. It skipped away from him, allowing Smerek to reach second, the only Harvest Christian runner to do so.

The only other hit came in the bottom of the seventh, when Ben Mitchell ripped a shot off the glove of Cru third baseman Carson Zellers and into foul territory in left. Fortunately for MA, shortstop Griffin Dobberstein ran the ball down and fired the ball to second baseman Anthony Couch in time to get Mitchell.

“We barreled up some baseballs today, but we knew Alec was their ace and he’s a good pitcher,” said Lions coach Cory Deshazer, whose team finished 19-8. “His breaking ball dives, and for our guys, that’s a bit of an adjustment having faced a lot of power arms from 4A, 3A schools this year … It took us a couple of innings, but we hit balls pretty hard, but that’s baseball.

“Good pitching, a 1-0 game, sometimes you win those, sometimes you don’t. Two really good teams, it’s a shame one had to lose, but they definitely deserved it. Hope they do well going forward.”

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