Fate makes Marquette’s latest baseball championship even sweeter

Crusaders take 2nd title on anniversary of 1st one

Marquette's Carson Zellers, winning pitcher in the Class 1A state championship game on Saturday, and his teammates show the Crusaders fans the title trophy.

Six months ago, when Kerry and Sue Komater, Renee Durdan and friends of Marquette began planning a special event honoring the five-year anniversary of the Crusaders’ 2019 Class 1A baseball state championship, they chose the first Saturday in June because it was five years to the day from that milestone win.

There was probably little thought of what else might be happening on that day so far down the road.

Sure, they suspected it was close to the end of the current spring season, but assumed like everyone else familiar with Marquette baseball that by then the current Crusaders would be reflecting on a solid yet unspectacular 2024 season.

What team could survive the loss of players such as Times Player of the Year Taylor Waldron and Tri-County Conference Player of the Year Logan Nelson?

Of fellow stars Aiden Thompson, Tommy Durdan and Krew Bond? Of Ethan Price, Primo Pattelli and others who together fashioned a 28-3 team that was a single, heartbreaking call away from another trip to the state’s final four?

With their roster pretty much gutted by graduation and three of their four starting pitchers gone from a Class 2A sectional finalist team, the returnees this spring were deemed by many as too young, too inexperienced to make this anything more than a rebuilding year.

But these current Crusaders not only survived those absences.

They thrived in them.

And that’s why there were two state championship trophies at their event at the Ottawa Knights of Columbus Hall on Saturday night.

Marquette football coach Tom Jobst congratulates the Crusaders on their Class 1A baseball state championship on Saturday at Bader Gym.

The 6-2 victory over Altamont in Saturday afternoon’s Class 1A baseball state championship game at Dozer Park in Peoria ended the Crusaders’ season at 31-2 and was the 650th win of Marquette coach Todd Hopkins’ career, not that anyone noticed.

Although the stoic coach would never admit it, there must be few that register as sweet in his 26-year tenure atop the Marquette program, just for the sheer randomness of it all.

He remembers the sting of being on the losing side of such fate, like falling in a supersectional to a Westminster Christian player who could pitch with either arm, like two years later against the same school and having his own pitcher throw a no-hitter in the super and lose, and like last year against Chicago Hope Academy when an odd interference call ended the season of that ultratalented club way too early.

Marquette head coach Todd Hopkins addresses his team and the crowd at the welcome home assembly at Bader Gym on Saturday.

No one expected those things.

Why them? Why not this team?

No one knows, not even Hopkins.

He didn’t expect this team would find so many little ways to score crucial runs, to play near-flawless defense and pitch so incredibly well, to play such fundamentally sound baseball that reporters in the press box at Dozer would marvel at their execution.

No one expected that team’s bus to be met at the edge of town by five fire trucks with sirens blaring.

No one expected that hundreds of people would provide a standing ovation at a public welcome in their own Bader Gym.

No one expected the coach would have the chance to tell that crowd, “The best team doesn’t always win state … but this weekend, we were the best, and we did.”

And no one expected there to be two 1A state championship trophies at the Knights of Columbus.

The Marquette baseball state champions are welcomed back to Bader Gym following the state championship win over Altamont on Saturday.
Marquette superfan Jo Parrott leads the Crusaders baseball team and the welcoming assembly in the school song Saturday at Bader Gym in Ottawa.
The IHSA Class 1A baseball state championship trophy and the medals handed out to the Marquette Crusaders at Dozer Park in Peoria on Saturday.
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