Jacob Parr takes the ball, pitches Lemont within striking distance of state title. ‘Put us in position to win.’

Along with becoming Lemont’s top hitter in his first varsity season, junior Jacob Parr also emerged as an intriguing pitching option this spring.

Parr hadn’t been on the mound in the playoffs, so he was a bit taken aback Saturday when coach Brian Storako told him he would be the starting pitcher for the Class 3A state championship game.

Still, Parr was confident.

“I was a little surprised, you could say, but I was ready to get it done,” he said. “Earlier in the week, I threw a good pen, and I’ve been working toward this all week.”

Coming through with a strong outing, Parr struck out five over 4 ⅓ innings, but Lemont fell just short in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Crystal Lake Central at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet.

Parr allowed two earned runs on just two hits. Nick Berardi had an RBI single for Lemont (31-10), while Max Michalak singled and drew a walk and Cannon Madej singled and scored a run.

It’s the third state trophy in program history for Lemont, following state titles in 2014 and 2016.

James Dreher delivered with a two-run single and Rhett Ozment added the go-ahead RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift Crystal Lake Central (22-14) to the first state championship in program history.

Parr, meanwhile, did his part to give Lemont a chance.

“He’s really turned it on at the end of the year,” Storako said of Parr. “We decided to go with him (Saturday), and he threw really well. He put us in position to win.

“Unfortunately they’re a good team, too. He left a couple pitches over the plate and they hit them hard. That’s baseball.”

Parr, who also is an outfielder, hit .415 this season, the highest average of any regular in Lemont’s lineup. He led the team with 35 RBIs and was second in runs with 37.

It’s safe to say he exceeded expectations for his rookie year on varsity.

“I might have surprised myself a little bit,” Parr said. “But I was looking to do some damage this year, and I think I definitely did.”

As a team, Lemont certainly surprised many people by making it all the way to the state final. The team graduated 18 seniors in 2023 and returned just one starter for this spring.

“Our season, from where we started to where we are now — we were 7-6 at one point, and look at where we’re at now,” Storako said. “These kids battled. They worked their butts off.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them. We may not have pulled it out (Saturday), but one game doesn’t define them, and these guys are going to go down in Lemont baseball history.”

Lemont built a 2-0 lead as Madej singled and scored on a wild pitch in the third inning and Berardi singled home Brett Tucker, who had reached on an error, in the fourth.

But the Tigers rallied with two runs in the fifth before Ozment delivered the game-winning triple in the sixth off Madej.

Madej, a sophomore, would have likely been the starting pitcher if fully healthy. He pushed through some pain to throw an inning in relief, striking out three.

“Cannon had a little tightness after that St. Laurence game,” Storako said of a 9-0 win in the sectional semifinals. “That’s why we had him in that role. We talked about it and felt confident, but for him to start and go the length we’d need of him wouldn’t be the right position for him.

“But he battled, and he’s been a dog for us this year. We’re looking forward to two more great years with him.”

Parr also is looking forward to the future, with a large chunk of Lemont’s team set to return.

“It’s really meaningful for a team this young to make it this far,” Parr said. “Hopefully, we can make another run next year.”