ELMHURST — One of the most tried-and-true sports clichés is it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season.
For the Bishop McNamara baseball team, that was the case in Tuesday’s IHSA Class 2A Lisle Super-Sectional.
After defeating Metro Suburban Conference rival Aurora Christian twice during the regular season, the Irish couldn’t get an encore performance, as they fell 5-2 to the Eagles at Plunkett Park in Elmhurst.
Tuesday’s matchup originally was slated for Monday at Benedictine University, but severe storms postponed the game and made the field unplayable for Tuesday. A last-minute decision was made to play at 3 p.m. on Plunkett’s field turf shortly after 12 p.m., which gave the Irish less than an hour to get ready and hit the road.
Irish coach Kurt Quick said while the changes weren’t ideal for the Irish, they already had proven they could win games affected by the weather, as both their regional semifinal and championship games were altered because of rain.
“It’s frustrating as a coach because you want things to go smoothly. You’ve got your routines in baseball — we get out of school; we hit; we get on the bus,” Quick said. “Everything was just thrown out of whack with the rain and moving facilities, but it started with regionals at our own place, having to battle Peotone and Reed-Custer.”
After a 30-minute rain delay, the game finally started, but the Irish bats did not. Their usually potent lineup struggled against Eagles starter and Purdue-commit Jake Kuntzendorf, who allowed one hit, one walk and struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings.
“He’s real good and a Purdue commit for a reason,” Quick said. “We were guessing up there and got behind — he did a great job of mixing pitches, and we just couldn’t catch up to his fastball.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles were able to build their lead early. After Irish starter Andrew Arseneau hit leadoff hitter Trey Madsen, M.J. Stavola drove him in with a booming double. In the second, the Eagles were able to turn two walks and a bunt single into another pair of runs on a sacrifice fly and Stavola single.
Quick turned to his most reliable bullpen arm all season, Preston Goodman, who kept the Irish in the game by allowing a pair of earned runs on seven hits in five innings.
“Preston’s a competitor. He‘s done what I asked him to all year, and he throws strikes,” Quick said. “I look forward to getting both him and Andrew back next year.”
The Irish‘s hopes were bleak after five innings, but they finally got the bats going in the sixth, when Hunter Thompson relieved Kuntzendorf. They loaded the bases before Broghan O’Connor drove in a pair with a sharp single to left field with two outs.
It looked as if the Irish were about to put another run on the board when Jared Born poked a ball seemingly through the left side of the infield, but Madsen made an incredible scoop and throw across his body from shortstop to nail Born by a sliver of a step.
After the sixth-inning threat was cut short, the Irish were sat down in order to send the Eagles, last year’s Class 1A state champions, back to Peoria.
“Baseball is a game of momentum, and I thought it changed once we scored some runs,” Quick said. “That shortstop made an incredible play, and I think if we would have scored a run there, who knows what happens.”
Although their run was cut a game short of their season-long goal of reaching the state finals, Quick only had one emotion after the Irish loss.
“No one thought we’d be here, and I’m just happy,” Quick said. “We played a tough conference, ended up with 27 wins and had a great year.”
Quick has reason for optimism going forward, as two-thirds of Tuesday’s lineup will be back in 2020. The seniors who were on the field Tuesday — Dom Koziol, Born and O’Connor — as well as designated hitter Connor Johnson will be missed for more than their on-field play in Quick’s eyes.
“I told [the seniors], ‘Destiny is beyond that fence, and when you walk out, the world’s at your hands,’ and that’s exciting,” Quick said. “Not only are they good athletes, they’re great kids. They’ll do well, and I’m excited for them.”
Max O’Connor had a pair of hits, and Broghan O’Connor had the only other Irish hit. Koziol and Tyler Hiller scored.