St. Rita Coach John Nee can easily describe his ideal baseball team.
He wants gritty, hard-nosed, grinders, players willing to lay it all on the line for a run, a hit, a win.
He saw that tough, never-say-die attitude all season from his Mustangs.
Playing in the Class 4A third-place game, St. Rita won 3-2 in walk-off fashion over Hampshire when Sean McDevitt scored from third on a throwing error at DuPage Medical Group Field in Joliet.
“It isn’t necessarily 10 Division-I baseball players. It’s 10 freaking gritty SOBs who epitomize what we think a St. Rita baseball player is and should be,” Nee said. “It’s a special group. Our senior class had unbelievable leadership.”
It was the best state finish for the Mustangs since the 2014 squad finished as state runner-up. The team also placed second in 4A in 2009 and 2010.
St. Rita finished 35-7.
Even down a run with 6 outs remaining, senior Gavin Mottl knew the team had plenty of fight left in its gas tank.
The Mustangs tied the game at 2 on a pinch-hit single from sophomore Al Holguin to score pinch-runner Jason Reis in the sixth.
“All year, we tried to find a way to win,” Mottl said. “It didn’t matter how or what we did, we were trying to get that run and win.”
With 1 out in the seventh, McDevitt was hit by a pitch and headed to first.
Star senior shortstop Jalen Greer hit a hard grounder to third and was thrown out at first, but running hard on the play, McDevitt didn’t stop at second.
The junior kept running, sliding safely into third.
The throw from Hampshire first baseman Nicholas Sladek went high up the line, allowing McDevitt to trot home from third for the game-winning run.
“The fielder never even looked at second,” McDevitt said. “I figured I had a pretty good shot at third, so I took off. Everyone got really loud, and I heard Coach Nee telling me to go for it. I ran home.”
McDevitt finished 1 for 3 with a run and RBI.
Brendan Carrane (St. John Fisher), Luke Napleton and Chris McDevitt (St. Cajetan) had 2 hits apiece for the Mustangs.
Luke Carroll (St. Christina) picked up the win, with Vic Aguilar, Justin Valdez and Jimmy Moylan combining to allow just 5 hits.
St. Charles North 6
St. Rita 4
Playing in the state semifinals on June 7, the Mustangs went up 2-0 early, but St. Charles answered with 3 in the fourth and 2 in the fifth.
Carrane (3 walks) and Bobby Atkinson (RBI, 2 hits) led the way.
Luke Napleton and Matt Callahan knocked in a run each for St. Rita. Reis, Chris McDevitt and Matt Dunleavy scored a run apiece.
Holguin pitched well in relief, allowing 1 unearned run on 2 hits and a walk with 2 strikeouts.