Fenwick High School third baseman Michael Krecek had struck out the first three times he faced Benet ace Pat Peterson in Saturday’s Class 3A Fenwick Regional championship game.
Krecek’s fourth at-bat didn’t start out any better as he fell behind Peterson 1-and-2 with the bases loaded in a tie game in the top of the seventh inning.
But Krecek eventually got the best of Peterson. After fouling off five pitches, the left-handed hitting junior sliced a double deep down the left field line to score Justin Rodriguez and Kevin Forde and put the Friars ahead for good.
Seventh-seeded Fenwick (23-10) eventually scored four runs in the inning en route to an 8-4 upset of the fourth-seeded Redwings.
“I’m really a mental player,” Krecek said. “I get in my head a lot and what was really key for me was not thinking about it.
“My coach and my dad both said that I really needed to stay calm and focused out there and that’s what I tried to do. Fouling off those pitches, I just kept my head down and tried to go at it as best I could.”
Krecek’s one-out hit broke a 4-4 tie and was followed by an RBI single from Quinn Snarskis. Gino Cavalieri’s sacrifice fly plated Krecek with the final run. Krecek and Snarskis, the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters in the lineup, combined for three hits and five RBIs.
“I felt like I made good contact,” Krecek said. “I’m happy that I did what I could for my team. It’s a nice hit but I’m just happy we got the win today.”
The win gave Fenwick its’ first regional title since 2008 and a berth in the Glenbard South Sectional semifinals, where the Friars will face Nazareth at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4.
“It really affirms that we’re a contender in the state championship and I really think that it shows that we have the potential to go all the way,” Krecek said.
If nothing else, the Friars proved they have toughness and determination. Nobody personified that more than Rodriguez, the junior catcher who played a pivotal role in the game’s turning point.
After Fenwick took an early 4-1 lead, Benet capitalized on Snarskis’ wildness to score two runs in the fourth. Joe Boyle led off the Benet fifth with a walk and one out later thought he would score the tying run on a double to left by Jonathan Krupp.
But left fielder Mike Neill hit his cutoff man, Cavalieri, with a strong throw and Cavalieri’s relay to Rodriguez beat Boyle to the plate. Boyle ran over Rodriguez so hard that Rodriguez had his mitt knocked off with the ball still inside it.
Boyle was called out and then ejected for arguing the call while the stunned Rodriguez was attended to.
“That probably was the turning point,” Fenwick coach Dave Hogan said. “You don’t want to say [Boyle] went [in] viciously, but that was old school. You can’t do old school and leave the guy helpless like that.”
The Redwings tied the game when the next hitter, Mike Ryan, tripled home Krupp, but the previous play had shifted the momentum in Fenwick’s favor.
“I did get beat up,” Rodriguez said. “I had the ball and basically he just went straight into me. I guarantee if he went around he probably would have been safe but he took the hard route and he just ran right through me.
“Once that happened, I felt the game just turned around and I felt that we started swinging the bats well.
Hogan felt Boyle would have been out either way, but what can’t be disputed is Rodriguez’s impact on the game.
The sturdy junior reached base four times, going 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. It was his one-out single that started the seventh-inning rally as Forde followed with a walk and Mike Neill reached on an error to set the table for Krecek.
“It’s tough sometimes when you’re in the batter’s box, especially taking that hit,” Rodriguez said. “But I held my composure and took care of business.”
So did Forde, the last of three Fenwick pitchers. He came in after Ryan’s triple and pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings of relief, walking two and fanning five to earn the win. He struck out the side in the seventh to clinch it.
“It’s very special, especially [against] a team like that,” Rodriguez said. “All-around they’re a very good team but we just came out on top.”