1A baseball: Marquette books trip to state with 5-0 win over East Dubuque

Zellers’ pitching, big 3rd inning gives Crusaders fourth state berth in six seasons

The Marquette Crusaders defeated East Dubuque, 5-0, on Saturday at the Rockford Rivets 1A Supersectional, earning a trip to the state finals in Peoria next weekend.

ROCKFORD – Perfection is pretty hard to come by, so the key for a high school pitcher seeking a victory is to not let the imperfections come back to haunt.

Carver Kamentz of East Dubuque did not overcome imperfections.

Marquette Academy’s Carson Zellers did.

Zellers was near perfect for the first six innings of the Class 1A Rockford Supersectional on Monday, walking only one, surrendering East Dubuque’s first hit with two outs in the sixth inning and facing the minimum through one out in the seventh.

The senior right-hander finished with a two-hit, 10-strikeout shutout that assured the Crusaders a 5-0 victory over the Warriors, a berth in the IHSA state tournament in Peoria and the program’s fourth state trophy in the past six seasons.

Kamentz absorbed the tough loss, yielding only two hits over six of the seven innings he pitched. His flaws, however, piled up in a big five-run Marquette rally in the third inning, capped by a huge three-RBI double by the Cru’s Charlie Mullen.

Marquette (29-2) heads to Dozer Park in Peoria at 10 a.m. Friday to meet Jacksonville Routt (32-7). Routt, winner of 20 of its past 22 games, won 4-1 in eight innings over Father McGivney at the Lincoln Land Community College Supersectional on Monday.

Since the regional opener when Newark scored in an 18-3 loss to the Cru, Zellers and Alec Novotney have combined for 27 straight scoreless innings with only nine hits allowed.

With one out in the fourth inning, Zellers walked Kamentz, but Bradin Lee lined hard to Marquette first baseman Sam Mitre for a double play.

The first hit came with two outs in the sixth when Josiah Sullivan slapped a soft drive down the left field line, but was thrown out at second by a perfect throw from Jaxsen Higgins to second baseman Anthony Couch.

In the seventh, Zellers allowed a Kamentz single and hit a batter, but got the last out on a comebacker to the mound.

“I know the last game I threw, I said it was the best I’d felt all year, but this one here just topped it,” said Zellers, referencing his 10-0 win over Country Day at the Harvest Christian Sectional. “Both games I threw really well, but today, with the atmosphere, the pressure, I just felt a lot better. … The start was better. I was able to pick up a rhythm earlier. I was getting the curveball over a lot and was able to keep everything low.

“I knew they’d get a hit eventually. It’s bound to happen, the name of the game. If it had been with two outs in the seventh, maybe I’d be a little upset. The win is the important thing.”

The decisive frame was a disaster from the start for Kamentz. Grant Dose and Novotney were both hit by pitches, then Zellers beat out his attempted sacrifice bunt for his second hit of the day, loading the bases.

After Mitre grounded into a force out at home, Keaton Davis and Griffin Dobberstein drew consecutive walks to plate the first two runs of the game.

“We knew these guys were good. We talked about it and knew we just had to play Warriors baseball, fight through adversity,” East Dubuque coach Brandon Tashner said. “Sometimes when you throw a ball or two, you feel you’re letting your guys down and try to be too perfect. … Carver was trying to place it instead of just pitching and the inning got away from him.”

That’s when the lefty-swinging Mullen, after a foul ball and a called strike, shot an outside fastball into left center to drive in a pair of runs, with the third coming when the ball bounced away from the left fielder, widening the gap to 5-0.

“Coach [Brian] Bressner right before that told me to go out and clear the bases, so I did,” Mullen said with a laugh. “I was looking to pull the ball, but with two strikes, it was a little out, so I pushed it that way. It’s whatever you can do with two strikes.

“We’re doing the little things right, hot with the bats and really good pitching, like Carson today. He was amazing.”

“Our pitchers have been outstanding,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “Give Brad (pitching coach Waldron) a ton of credit. He calls a great game and has worked with these guys all the way up, and they’ve been fabulous.

“We played a little small ball, got guys on and Charlie came up with the big hit with two strikes going the other way. … Their pitcher was tough – we hadn’t faced a side-armer all year – but we were able to get it done.”

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