For the second time in two playoff games, Loyola received a stellar start by one of its captains.
After senior right-hander Ben Wagner pitched a complete game in Thursday’s 4-2 win against Leyden, senior right-hander Henry Haracz (pictured above) stepped up Saturday with an outstanding outing of his own in Loyola’s 4-1 victory over Notre Dame in the Class 4A regional final at Notre Dame.
It was the program’s first regional title since 2015.
“Phenomenal senior leadership,” Loyola head coach Nick Bridich said. “They gave us exactly what we needed.”
Hours after Loyola’s graduation ceremey at Loyola University, Haracz struck out four and surrendered one run in six innings. He said striking out the leadoff batter in the top of the first inning settled him down.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about this game all day,” he said. “Getting that first out was big for me. The offense then put up some runs, which took the pressure off.”
Bridich said Haracz stuck to the game plan of locating his fastball, mixing his three pitches and welcoming contact. But it was Haracz’s mental approach that Bridich chose to highlight.
“It’s incredible how emotionally in control he is,” Bridich said.
The Ramblers got on the board first by scoring three runs in the second. Senior Will Jackson and junior Jack Moran had RBI singles, while senior Johnny Mejia drove in a run on a fielder’s choice.
Senior Dan Hrvojevic made it 4-0 with a single that scored Jackson in the fourth. It was Jackson’s second run scored of the game.
“Quality at-bats,” Bridich said. “We got them.”
Junior left-hander Jake Novak earned the save with a scoreless seventh. He struck out the first batter before Moran made the second out with big-league play at shortstop. Notre Dame got a runner on after a hard-hit ball to center field, but Novak knocked down a line drive at the mound by the next batter and threw to Hrvojevic at first base for the final out.
Loyola’s Nos. 6-8 batters — Jackson, Hrvojevic, Moran — accounted for five of the team’s seven hits and three of the four runs.
Instead of talking about himself following the biggest win of his career, Haracz saved his words for senior catcher Jason Vrbancic.
“He called his own game, and I trusted him,” Haracz said. “I didn’t shake him off once. We kept them off balance.”
With their sixth win a row, the No. 4-seeded Ramblers (21-9-1) play No. 9 Maine West in the sectional semifinals Wednesday at Loyola. The Warriors earned a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Oak Park-River Forest in the regional final at Maine East. Third-seeded Evanston plays No. 7 Lane Tech in the other semifinal Wednesday. The Indians beat No. 2 New Trier 7-3 in the regional final at Kerry Wood Field in Chicago.
The sectional final is Saturday.
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola