Westmont shortstop Charlie Donovan is accustomed to playing in the spotlight.
Prep Baseball Report rates the Michigan commit as the top junior in the state and a likely high draft pick in 2015.
But much to his delight, Donovan will get to share the glare with his teammates at this weekend’s Class 2A state finals in Peoria. The Sentinels (27-7-1) edged Ottawa Marquette 2-0 in Monday’s Benedictine Supersectional to qualify for the state semifinals for the first time.
Westmont will take on Byron (34-5) at 5 p.m. Friday at Dozer Park. Freeburg (30-8) faces 2013 runner-up Pleasant Plains (29-11) in the other semifinal.
“We’re all so pumped,” Donovan said “We’ve been talking about this for the last three years, so for this to become a reality, I don’t even believe it right now. It’s unbelievable.”
Westmont, which has never won a state title in any sport, is the only team in the field that has not played in a state championship game. The importance of the situation cannot be understated.
“Everyone’s been doubting us since Day One,” Donovan said. “Kids from our area go to private schools because they don’t think we can do anything, but we just showed them that there is hope and this is my favorite baseball memory of all time.”
Donovan’s all-around talent far surpasses his 5-10, 170-pound frame. He is hitting .500 with six homers, 50 runs, 47 RBI and 47 stolen bases. He’s a defensive whiz and is also the team’s top reliever with a 3-0 record and 0.00 ERA in 10.1 innings. Westmont coach D.J. Cocks won’t hesitate to use him in a save situation this weekend.
While Donovan has garnered all of the attention, it hasn’t damaged Westmont’s chemistry.
“All these guys know that Charlie is a superstar and they take a back seat to him a lot, but they don’t care,” Cocks said. “They understand the importance of dealing with the fact that you’ve got a great teammate there and you can’t look at it as a jealousy type thing.
“You’ve got to look at it as, ‘hey, we’ve got this guy on our side.’ He’s one of the best players in the state of Illinois. And they’ve embraced that.
“They know that he’s a great player and now it’s time for all of them to shine. I’m just so proud of them.”
Indeed, the Sentinels are far from being a one-man team. Their potent offense produced seven or more runs 20 times this season en route to breaking the school record for wins. Other big bats include senior designated hitter Tommy Franczak (.407, 49 RBI) and freshman catcher Joe Donovan (Charlie’s brother), who is hitting .412 with 43 runs.
But that lineup was no-hit by Marquette’s Evan Snyder in the supersectional. Senior ace Zach Moran, a College of DuPage recruit who is 7-1 with a 1.50 ERA, came to the rescue by hurling a two-hit shutout.
“Charlie is a good player,” Moran said. “He really helps the team a lot and I think it’s good that our whole team contributes to our wins.”
The Sentinels will need a total team effort against Byron ace Nate Peterson, who is 12-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 85.1 innings, but Cocks still is pinching himself that they are on the doorstep of history.
“This is an unbelievable feeling for me,” Cocks said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys as far as [what] their character is and fighting through adversity all year long. They all deserve it.”