The game started two hours late. Well, it almost started. The scheduled 10 a.m. start was moved to noon early Friday morning because of rain. When Nazareth and St. Francis finally took the field at noon, the rain started again and the tarp came back out for a 35 minute delay. The rain wasn’t done yet, a 41 minute rain delay slowed things down again in the third inning.
None of that fazed Nazareth pitcher Donald Kelly. The senior was sensational Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. Kelly wound up in some trouble several times but always managed to find a way out, bending but never quite breaking, to help the Roadrunners to a 2-1 win over St. Francis in the first Class 3A state semifinal game.
Kelly (9-2) pitched six innings and allowed just one earned run. He gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out 11. St. Francis had runners on base early in the fourth, fifth and sixth inning, but Kelly found a way out of the jam each time.
“I came back, geared down and stayed in the moment,” said Kelly.
St. Francis’ only run came in the first. The Spartans hit three consecutive singles. The third, Will Purdom’s single to right, drove home Jason Sullivan from second base.
“(The delays) fazed me a little bit,” said Kelly. “It’s unconventional, my nerves were just tight.”
Nazareth junior Joe Muscolino singled to lead off the third inning. Matt Flach drove him in with a base hit later in the inning to tie the score at 1. The Roadrunners (32-8) took the lead for good in the fifth when Kyle Kane’s deep sacrifice fly drove in Ryan Kramer from third.
St. Francis (26-10) threatened to tie the game in the seventh, but Will Purdom popped up a bunt attempt with runners on first and second. Nazareth catcher Carson Bartles caught the pop up and whipped the ball to second for a crucial double play.
Nazareth will face the winner of the Morgan Park-Highland semifinal for the Class 3A state title Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The Roadrunners have never won a baseball state title, but finished fourth in Class 3A in 2011 and third in 2012.