Downers North’s Brett Pyburn pitched a great game Thursday.
Marmion ace Alex Troop threw an even better one.
Troop struck out 12 in six shutout innings and the Cadets scored two unearned runs off Pyburn in the fourth inning en route to a 2-0 victory in a Class 4A Downers South Regional semifinal.
It was the first playoff win for 10th-seeded Marmion (16-10) since being moved up to Class 4A after winning three straight 3A regional titles from 2010-12.
“It goes down in history now,” Troop said. “You’re the first team to win in 4A, so we’ll be in the record books forever. It’s a good feeling to have.”
Troop, a Michigan State signee, said he felt good from the outset against the sixth-seeded Trojans. The crafty lefthander mixed his pitches well and kept the Trojans (18-14) off-balance despite their patient approach, which ran up his pitch count.
Seven of Troop’s strikeout victims were caught looking, including five straight.
He struck out the side in the fifth.
“He got ahead in the count finally,” Marmion coach Dave Rakow said. “You’ve got to give Downers for extending the counts. There were a lot of foul balls with two strikes and they made Alex really, really work today.
“But he’s got two really good off-speed pitches. When he can throw those for strikes he’s a very tough pitcher to hit.”
Troop (5-0) demonstrated that by getting out of jams in the fourth and sixth innings. Two errors put the tying runs on with nobody out in the fourth but Troop got two strikeouts and a fly out to end that one.
Then in the sixth, the Trojans loaded the bases with two outs on a walk and two singles, one of them an infield hit, but Troop fanned Matthew Bohanon with the last of his 113 pitches.
Jake Esp nailed down his first save with a hitless seventh, allowing a two-out walk but striking out two.
“The confidence was still going,” said Troop, who allowed three hits and two walks but only four balls out of the infield. “I was getting a little tired there towards the end. The pitch count was getting high but it really felt good to finish that last out and Jake came in and did a great job of finishing it.”
Pyburn matched Troop pitch-for-pitch, giving up just three singles and a walk while fanning eight, but the junior was done in by two errors in the top of the fourth.
After Brian Simon’s one-out single, Brady Roberts hit a double-play ball to short, but Ray Greco’s throw to second was wild. After Roberts moved up on a wild pitch, Troop hit a grounder that snuck under the glove of drawn-in second baseman Joe Provenzano, allowing both runners to score.
“You tip your cap to both [pitchers],” Downers North coach Chad Isaacson said. “[Pyburn] has thrown like that all year long. He’s given us an opportunity in all the games he’s pitched.”
“He did throw a gem,” Troop said of Pyburn. “You’ve got to give him all the credit in the world. He really competed for his team, so kudos to him.”
Esp will start Saturday’s regional title game against third-seeded Downers South. The Cadets are seeking their first large-school regional crown since 1969, when there was only one class.
“We did just enough to win today but I just told them we’re going to have to clean a few things up to beat Downers South,” Rakow said.