St. Rita advanced to its first state championship game with a 4-0 victory over O'Fallon in the Class 4A semifinals Friday at Joliet's Silver Cross Field.
The Mustangs (35-6) scored a run in four of the first five innings, and junior left-hander Shane Conlon went the distance in the shutout, giving up four hits, striking out five and walking four. St. Rita will play New Trier in Saturday's 4A championship. O'Fallon (31-10) will play Cary-Grove for third place.
"I think we're a lot more aggressive this year," said senior right fielder Dan Dispensa, who played on St. Rita's 2007 Class AA Elite Eight team. "Two years ago, we were laid back. We had the pitchers and the hitters and we thought, 'Hey we're the best team.' This year, we're not just saying it. We're getting out there and doing everything can and not letting any opportunities pass us up."
Dispensa led off the first for St. Rita with a double to left field and scored on a Mark Payton single. Angelo Burrage drove in a run in the third inning off O'Fallon starter Jon Levin (9-4), who took the loss after giving up six hits and two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Anthony Andres scored in the fourth to put the Mustangs up 3-0. Payton, who was selected as the Tribune's first-team All-State center fielder, added a solo home run to right field off reliever Alex Young in the fifth inning to give the Mustangs their final run of the game. Payton finished the game 3-for-3 with two RBIs.
"It's a lot easier hitting when you know your pitcher is throwing strikes," Payton said. "You can keep your head in the game and you're not pressed to score. I found a pitch I could handle and took a swing at it."
St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said Conlon "is pitching better and better with each time out." The win brought his record to 9-1.
"I definitely tried to get ahead in every count, from pitch one of the game," Conlon said. "Once I got strike one, I just could use my other pitches. Strike one was pretty big throughout the game."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun