Brother Rice senior Ryan Palmblad pitched a complete game against Mount Carmel in the Class 4A St. Laurence Sectional final on Saturday, June 2, 2018. (Allen Cunningham / Daily Southtown)
By Pat Disabato, Daily Southtown
Brother Rice pitcher Ryan Palmblad was perfectly aware of Mount Carmel’s recent offensive achievements.
The Caravan had scored 40 runs in their previous three playoff games, inducing the 10-run rule each time.
While that might have intimidated some, the challenge of taming those bats excited Palmblad, a Central Michigan recruit.
The senior left-hander was up to the challenge Saturday afternoon, throwing a six-hitter to lead Brother Rice to a 7-2 victory in the Class 4A St. Laurence Sectional championship game.
The second-seeded Crusaders (27-12) advance to play Plainfield North (26-7-1) at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Crestwood Supersectional at Standard Bank Stadium.
Plainfield North defeated Neuqua Valley 11-3 in the Hinsdale South Sectional. It’s the first sectional title for Brother Rice since 2007.
Palmblad (7-4) made it possible, consistently mixing a tailing fastball, biting slider and effective change-up to stymie the fourth-seeded Caravan (27-11).
“I was jacked up,” Palmblad said. “My key was to get the first three guys out.”
That’s a tall task, but Palmblad limited Texas Christian recruit Alek Thomas, Diego Munoz and Josh Houston to a combined 2-for-9.
Keeping that trio at the top of the order at bay was key, considering cleanup hitter Anthony Herron went 2-for-2 with a walk. But with the big three unable to get on base, Herron twice led off innings.
Another big factor in Palmblad’s success was his control. He didn’t walk a batter while striking out three. And Brother Rice’s defense was stellar, which Palmblad appreciated.
“My defense was outstanding,” he said. “They made all the plays.”
After losing in the sectional championship game the past two seasons, Palmblad was hoping the third time would be the charm.
“I wasn’t losing a third one,” he said. “I thought we had something special here.”
Oklahoma recruit Kendall Pettis had a special day at the plate. His two-out RBI single in the third forced a 1-1 tie and his RBI double in the sixth upped the advantage to 6-1. Jack Payton added an RBI triple.
Pettis was confident Palmblad would come through.
“With Palmblad on the mound, I had no doubt we were going to win,” Pettis said. “He has four losses, but we haven’t scored for him or didn’t play well behind him. He shut them down. He’s amazing.”
Mount Carmel jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second, but the inning had the potential to be more productive.
Caravan coach Brian Hurry waved Herron home from third base on Christian Lucio’s double. The relay throw to catcher Jack Payton, however, arrived in plenty of time to get Herron.
“I was too aggressive waving Anthony in,” Hurry said. “That’s a situation you have to hold him up and let our bats go to work.”
Mount Carmel pitcher Anthony Scanlon also deserved a better fate.
The Caravan committed five errors, which led to four unearned runs. Scanlon also took a liner off his pitching arm in the fourth inning but stayed in the game into the sixth.
“Anthony battled and gave us a chance to win,” Hurry said. “The last six weeks, we’ve played phenomenal defense. They made the plays (Saturday) and we didn’t.”