Cole Van Assen’s complete-game shutout sends Brother Rice into first title game since 1981

Brother Rice senior Cole Van Assen, a Purdue recruit, allowed just two hits while striking out nine and walking four.

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Brother Rice’s Cole Van Assen (28) pitches against New Trier.

Brother Rice’s Cole Van Assen (28) pitches against New Trier.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Cole Van Assen’s mission on Friday in Joliet was clear: Get Brother Rice to the state championship game.

The Crusaders came up short in the Class 4A semifinals last season. The program is hungry for a title. Several of last year’s seniors were in attendance at Duly Health and Care Field to watch their former classmates take care of unfinished business.

Van Assen, a Purdue recruit, was sensational in Brother Rice’s 4-0 win against New Trier.

He struck out the side in the first inning to set the tone and then went on to throw a complete game shutout. Van Assen allowed just two hits while striking out nine and walking four. He threw 116 pitches.

“Against righties it was cutter and curve ball,” Van Assen said. “Lefties was changeup and fastball. I’m very comfortable with getting all those pitches over at any count, at any time. Especially being my last time pitching.”

It all hit Van Assen quickly after the game. He’d done it. And now his high school career was over.

“He’s emotional,” Brother Rice coach Sean McBride said. “He’s been the most steady personality I’ve had in my five years here. Just his demeanor and his ability to take it all in and just be the same. It’s pretty cool for me to see him at a loss for words now. It’s all coming out of him. He knows he just put his team in the state championship, and he can’t throw again for us.”

It was Van Assen’s 10th win of the season and 26th overall.

“What a career,” McBride said. “For my eyes the best to ever do it in a Brother Rice uniform. To put us in a place we haven’t been since 1981 says a lot about him and a lot about our team.”

Senior Sean Sullivan and junior Ryan Hartz were each 2 for 3 with a RBI and sophomore Jackson Natanek added two hits and a run for the Crusaders (26-15).

Brother Rice scored one run in the second inning, two in the fifth and one in the sixth.

“[Van Assen] did a good job of going outside and challenging us a little bit,” New Trier coach Mike Napoleon said. “We had opportunities but he’s a competitor. We knew that going in. He had a good day.”

The Crusaders will face Edwardsville (32-9) in the Class 4A title game on Saturday. The Tigers beat York 7-3 in the first semifinal.

Edwardsville senior Kayden Jennings homered in the game. That’s a rare occurrence in Joliet. It was the first of his career.

“I’ve never felt anything like that,” Jennings said. “It was way different. Felt really good. I didn’t know it was out at first but then I saw it bouncing out there.”

Edwardsville, a St. Louis suburb, is a powerhouse program. The Tigers won the Class 4A state title last year and in 2019. They finished second in 2017 and won state titles in 1998 and 1990.

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