As a leadoff hitter and team antagonist, St. Rita’s Brendan Carrane doesn’t care how he gets on base.
Just as long as he does.
“It gets things going,” Carrane said. “I like to bunt. I take pride in getting a walk. I like to steal bases. I want to set the tone.”
Carrane, a senior second baseman and Saint Louis recruit, walked three times Friday afternoon in setting the table for some fireworks.
He never touched home plate, however, during a 6-4 loss to St. Charles North in the Class 4A state semifinals at DuPage Medical Group Field in Joliet.
Timely hitting was an issue for St. Rita (34-7), which left the bases loaded in the sixth.
The Mustangs will play at 3 p.m. Saturday in the third-place game against Hampshire (22-15), which lost 2-0 to Edwardsville (36-5) in the other semifinal.
Bobby Atkinson went 2-for-3 with an RBI for St. Rita. Jalen Greer, a fifth-round draft pick Tuesday by the Oakland A’s, was joined by Luke Napleton and Matt Callahan with RBIs.
It was an uncharacteristically sloppy defensive performance by the Mustangs, who committed three errors that led to three unearned runs.
“We got to this point in the playoffs by playing great defense,” St. Rita coach John Nee said. “This group has been great all year long.”
There was a stretch during the season when Carrane wasn’t playing up to his potential.
He struggled at the plate and in demonstrating the leadership expected of a three-year starter. He reached his breaking point, requesting a sit-down with Nee.
“Coach Nee told me to be the player and leader I was the previous two years,” Carrane said. “Go do all the little things to get us a ‘W.’ I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. He made me feel comfortable.”
Entering Friday’s game, Carrane had 44 runs and 30 walks with a .459 on-base percentage.
He had 44 at-bats where he saw at least six pitches, putting additional wear and tear on the opposition and allowing his teammates a better chance to size things up.
“Brendan has been an on-base machine the last three weeks,” Nee said. “He’s a gritty, pesky leadoff hitter.”
St. Rita pitcher Diego Koval (7-2) has battled various ailments, but he always took the ball when it was his turn.
The senior right-hander had a 2-0 lead heading into the fourth inning. St. Charles North (29-10), however, scored three runs and then added two more in the fifth for a 5-2 lead.
Koval was replaced on the mound with two outs in the fifth.
“I was for sure nervous,” he said. “But I knew I had my defense behind me.”
Nee felt that St. Rita’s inability to increase the early lead was costly.
“We’ve done a great job in the playoffs of jumping out to the early lead,” he said. “We didn’t tack on (Friday). They had great at-bats with two outs and two strikes.
“That’s who we are — that’s what we do. Being on the other end of that hurts.”