When Hampshire’s Logan Nespor walked onto the mound Friday, he couldn’t help himself. He was in awe.
“It was mesmerizing,” Nespor said. “That’s what I dreamed of all of high school — big spots.”
And Nespor was even bigger.
The senior pitcher went the distance in the Class 4A state semifinals, keeping the Whip-Purs in the game during a 2-0 loss to Edwardsville at DuPage Medical Group Field in Joliet.
Edwardsville (36-5) scored runs in each of the first two innings to gain a 2-0 lead that held up against Hampshire (22-15), which matched the Tigers with a mere three hits.
Nespor (6-3) struck out three and allowed three walks for the Whip-Purs, who will play at 3 p.m. Saturday for third place against St. Rita (34-7).
“He pitched his heart out,” Hampshire coach Frank Simoncelli said of Nespor. “That’s what he’s been doing all year. He’s been a hot pitcher in the playoffs and a guy that we can count on.
“He stepped up and kept them off-balance. I can’t say enough about how he pitched.”
Nespor allowed the leadoff batter to reach in each of the first two innings and Edwardsville took advantage.
Both runners stole second and ended up scoring. Nespor didn’t allow the leadoff batter to reach in the final five innings.
“Based on what happened the first two innings, I knew I was not going to let that happen again,” Nespor said. “I just tried to get ahead with every hitter and attack the zone as much as possible.
“I knew if I kept it to where it was, we would have a good chance of winning the game.”
Nespor escaped his biggest jam in the fifth. Edwardsville loaded the bases with two outs, but he wiggled out of it and gave his offense a chance.
“I don’t let the base runners get to me,” Nespor said. “Bases loaded, that’s when I thrive. I knew how much it meant to the team. I just tried to bear down.”
Hampshire looked to have something cooking in the top of the seventh.
Matt Jachec drew a leadoff walk and Gavin Kriegel hit a shot into right field. Taking advantage of the artificial turf, Blake Burris threw Kriegel out at first baase.
Although Jonathan Mroz followed with a two-out single to keep Hampshire’s hopes alive, the rally eventually fizzled.
“It was just unfortunate that it was on turf,” Kriegel said. “I feel like if it was on grass, the grass would have slowed that one down and I would have beaten the throw there.
“He made a real nice play — threw a dot to first.”
Jachec gets the pitching start Saturday for the final game of his illustrious career.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Jachec said. “That’s one way to end my career, with a win, hopefully get third place and celebrate with the boys.
“It was a tough loss. To come back and get a win, that would be the best thing possible.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.