GRAYSLAKE – Crystal Lake South’s Mark DeCicco wanted one more chance at St. Viator.
The Gators’ season last year had ended to St. Viator in the Class 3A state playoffs. The Lions had also beaten Crystal Lake South in the opener to the 2022 campaign.
This is a Crystal Lake South team on a mission in the state playoffs this season. DeCicco and his teammates, who were seeded sixth, stunned the top-seeded Lions, 5-2, Saturday in the finals of the Class 3A Grayslake Central Sectional.
Crystal Lake South (18-13), which won its second sectional title in school history, will meet Fenwick in the Wintrust Field Supersectional at 5 p.m. Monday in Schaumburg. Fenwick defeated Notre Dame, 5-3, to advance.
“I think Mark (DeCicco) executed a lot of pitches,” Crystal Lake South coach Brian Bogda said. “And I think James Allie deserves a lot of credit too coming in at the end there. He had to pitch in a high intensity situation there.”
Bogda says that he has enjoyed the short rivalry with St. Viator.
“We have had some good games with them,” Bogda said. “Our last three games have been unbelievable with them. I am really proud of our team and what we have accomplished.”
DeCicco had a huge part in his team’s victory Saturday.
The senior threw five-plus innings, allowing just five hits and two runs while striking out five. He also was an offensive star for the Gators with two hits and three RBIs.
“I am pretty emotional,” DeCicco said. “They took us down last season and this year, so it was a good feeling getting them back.”
DeCicco said that his teammates helped set the table for his key hits.
“We have guys on the base paths and I trust them,” DeCicco said. “They got themselves in good position to score.”
After both teams were stymied over the first three innings, Crystal Lake South struck first, scoring three runs after two were out.
Ryan Skwarek, who reached on a field’s choice, stole second. After a walk to Joey McEnery, Kyle Kuffel singled to right to make it 1-0 with McEnery to third and Kuffel moving up to second on a bad throw.
“It was a pretty good day,” said Kuffel, who had two hits and threw out a runner stealing. “They ended our season last year. It was a big swing in the third inning. I knew Mark was behind me, so I knew I had to get to second on that throw home.”
DeCicco followed with a single to right, just inside the line, scoring a pair to make it 3-0.
The Gators added a pair more in the sixth. DiCicco drove in Skwarek, who had doubled. McEnery, who had reached earlier on walk, would later score on a bases-loaded walk.
St. Viator (35-3) appeared to be just about finished when the first two batters struck out to lead off the sixth. But not quite.
Zan Von Schlegell belted a solo homer. Dominick McKevitt, who was robbed of a home run in the second inning by the Gators’ James Carlson, singled and stole second. He would then score on Joe Bollard’s single to cut the margin to 5-2.
After a walk, Allie came on in relief. He would strike out the next batter to end the threat.
Allie would give up a two-out double in the seventh, but hung on after a fly out ended the game.
“It was a little tough,” Allie said. “But I was just focusing on the next pitch. I was loose out there.”
“No one really expects us to win,” said Dayton Murphy, who directs the South defense at shortstop and started last season as a freshman.
“We are lowest seed still left. We are the underdogs going into this. We talk in our group chats that we have nothing to lose. So we are going out and playing relaxed.”
St. Viator’s Casey Hintz, a Lakewood resident who pitched the Lions to a win in the sectional semifinal and will play at Arizona next season, said it was a true team effort for the Lions.
“This team, we fought all year together,” Hintz said. “We are like brothers to each other every day. No one was into this for themselves and we all knew that.”