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High school baseball: Nazareth shuts out Sycamore to return to Class 3A state finals


Sycamore threatened Nazareth, the defending Class 3A state champions, in the first inning. But Roadrunners starting pitcher John Hughes survived unscathed.

Then the Spartans had runners on second and third with no outs in the third inning. Hughes retired Sycamore’s third, fourth and fifth hitters to end the threat. 

“I live for those moments,” Hughes said. “In those moments you are either going to fold our have confidence in yourself. I’ve just got to keep trusting my stuff. That’s what I did and it ended up working out. There were definitely some stressful situations but I got out of it.”

Hughes went five innings and Jaden Fauske pitched the final two as the Roadrunners beat Sycamore 3-0 at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet. 

“I think maybe I get locked in just a little bit more [in the tough situations] and have a little bit more confidence in my pitches,” Hughes said. 

Freshman second baseman Landon Thome, Jim Thome’s son, had two hits and two RBI to lead Nazareth’s offense. 

“Being around the older guys has really helped me mature in my game,” Thome said. “It’s been a really good year for us but the job is not finished and we have to win one tomorrow.”

Nazareth (33-6) won its first five playoff games by a combined score of 53-3. Sycamore (33-6) hit plenty of balls hard but in the wrong spots. 

“It’s a game that could have gone either way,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “We had chances to score. A base hit here or there and it turns out to be a totally different game. We weren’t able to drive in runs when we should. I’m not convinced they are the best team, but they were today.”

Hughes allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three in five innings. He’s allowed just two earned runs in 34 innings this season.

“Second and third, nobody out, that’s the guy we want on the mound,” Nazareth coach Lee Milano said. “[Hughes] is battle tested at the highest level.”

Centerfielder Lucas Smith had two hits and scored twice for the Roadrunners and junior first baseman Nick Drtina added two hits and a RBI.

Sycamore starting pitcher Jimmy Amptmann allowed two runs and five hits in three innings. Lefty Tommy Townsend gave up one run on four hits over the final four innings. The Spartans will face Effingham in the third-place game on Saturday. 

Nazareth’s title game opponent is Grayslake Central, which beat Effingham 9-1 in the first semifinal. 

“The plan is just what it was last year,” Drtina said. “Stay in the moment and compete in every pitch and at bat and just fight and fight.”


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