St. Rita blanks Lyons to win summer state title

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It was a long, strange year before Jake Shepski pitched again for St. Rita on Thursday night, so maybe a little more craziness was to be expected.

After spending a good chunk of the spring sidelined because of arm issues, Shepski took the ball over and over in the Phil Lawler Summer Classic, which serves as the unofficial summer state tournament.

Pitching for the fourth time in four days, Shepski threw a two-hitter as St. Rita beat defending champ Lyons 11-0 in five innings for the title at Benedictine University in Lisle.

“Feeling good right now,” Shepski said after gaining his third win of the tournament. “The adrenaline kind of dulls the pain.”

Nothing could do that a few months ago, when the Mustangs’ spring season ended with a sectional final loss to eventual Class 4A champion Mount Carmel.

“It kind of sucked, watching when we needed pitching,” said Shepski, a rising senior righty. “I wanted to pitch, but my elbow just wouldn’t give it (a chance).”

The Mustangs (17-5) scored all of their runs in the first two innings Thursday, getting 10 hits (all singles), a walk and a hit batter and taking advantage of four early Lyons errors.

The teams combined for five errors before a batter was retired in the bottom of the first.

“It happens,” St. Rita’s Anthony Faron said. “Just got to battle through it. Especially (with) nerves in the first inning, you want to get that first play out of the way.”

Faron and Jake Drada each had two-run singles in St. Rita’s seven-run second inning, A.J. Fuller had an RBI single in each of the first two innings and Chris Delgadillo had two hits in the second inning.

It capped the Mustangs’ comeback from an opening loss in the modified double-elimination tourney, as they won four in a row over the final three days. The title was St. Rita’s third since 2005 and first since ’09.

“We believed in these kids all along,” Mustangs coach Mike Zunica said. “Monday after that second game (a win over Plainfield East), we sent some pretty strong messages and I think they got the message that they’re a lot better than they showed in both of those games.”

Lyons (26-7) would like to believe the same of itself after Thursday’s start.

“Wish it would have been a better game,” Lions coach George Ushela said. “It would have been better to have it be a more competitive game — a little more drama, a little more gamesmanship.”

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