O’Brien: Ryan Sublette whiffs 14 to send Lemont to 3A title game

Lemont starting pitcher Ryan Sublette took the mound in the Class 3A state semifinals on Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet and totally fell apart.

He walked the first St. Viator batter he faced. He hit the second batter. Then he threw two wild pitches. A run scored on a bad toss back to the mound from Lemont catcher Casey O’Brien and then Sublette gave up a run-scoring single to Lions right fielder Cole Kmet.

The Indians were in a two-run hole and things looked bleak.

“I was trying to get jacked up before the game in the bullpen and I was kind of overthrowing a little bit,” Sublette said. “My arm was actually a little sore.”

Lemont coach Brian Storako had a reliever start warming up and it appeared that Sublette’s state tournament appearance would be brief.

Then as quickly as he fell apart, the right-handed junior became practically unhittable.

Sublette didn’t surrender another run, pitched a complete game and struck out a career-high 14. He allowed two hits and walked four in the Indians’ 10-2 victory over St. Viator.

“In the first inning he had a little bit of nerves,” O’Brien said. “I just noticed throughout the game he was hitting his spots and I definitely think he was throwing harder. He was throwing the heat and just nailing his spots, I don’t think anyone could touch him today, he was hot.”

Sublette was throwing harder. He gained velocity throughout the game, topping out at 89 miles per hour.

“I’m sure the heat helped me loosen up,” Sublette said. “I was using more of my body and started to feel better throughout the game.”

The Illinois High School Association tweaked the tournament schedule on Friday and Saturday to avoid the hottest portion of the afternoons.

While the heat helped Sublette, it made things difficult for St. Viator starting pitcher Kevin Napoleon, who allowed three runs in four innings.

“The heat definitely slowed me down a little bit,” Napoleon said. “It was hard to adjust. I haven’t pitched in that heat in a long time.”

O’Brien hit a towering three-run homer to center field in the sixth inning to seal the win.

“That’s the farthest I’ve ever hit a ball in my life,” O’Brien said. “The at bat before [St. Viator pitcher Shaun Falbo] threw me three straight curveballs and I ended up striking out. I knew the next at bat I was going to go up there hacking and waiting on the hanging curveball and that’s what happened.”

Sublette threw 141 pitches, but was determined to finish the game.

“I was just feeling pretty tired,” Sublette said. “It’s not too smart to stay in with an eight run lead but I just wanted to have that feeling of finishing it.”

Lemont (29-9) won the Class 3A state title in 2014. The Indians top starting pitcher, senior Garrett Acton, will take the mound against Bartonville Limestone or Springfield in the title game on Saturday.

St. Viator (25-16) had a magical playoff run to earn its first trip to the state finals since 1965.

“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” Lions coach Mike Manno said. “Our staff, our kids, even the guys that came before us put a lot of time in to get us where we are at now. We do things the right way at St. Viator and we reaped the benefits of that this year. I’m really proud of these kids.”

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