The sports-crazed fans of and flooded the first- and third-base lines Wednesday for a thrilling Class 4A sectional semifinal, and in the middle of it all was Jean Hearne.
She was there to see two of her grandsons play: Providence pitcher David Hearne on the mound opposite Marist pitcher Mike Hearne.
"I'm just rooting for the pitchers," she said at the start of the game. "I just hope they both have a good game. One of them's got to lose."
That one was David and his Providence Celtics, which finished second in the state tournament last year. After four innings of great throwing, David and the Providence bullpen lost control of their pitches and the game, ultimately losing 9-5.
Mike Hearne saw the opposite fate on the mound. He gave up five hits against his first seven batters in the first inning, surrendering four runs. The scored remained 4-0 into the fifth before the wheels came off for Providence.
David Hearne pitched well before loading the bases and walking in a run in the fifth inning. The Providence bullpen couldn't find the strike zone after that, as the Celtics finished with 13 walks on the day. After tying the game 4-4 in the fifth inning, Marist tacked on five more runs in the sixth.
Meanwhile, it was Marist pitcher Mike Hearne who calmed the storm of the first inning to grab the complete game victory, allowing just five baserunners the rest of the game.
"I settled down a little bit," he said. "I just had to get that hold because I knew we'd come alive sometime."
Hearne family members sat on both sides of the field, as it's often been in the past. David, of Homer Glen, and Mike, of Palos Heights, have pitched against each other before on traveling teams and have also been teammates at times. Next year they're both headed to play ball at Notre Dame.
"It's always fun," said David's mother, Bridie, who said she jokingly used to egg them on to charge the mound against each other. But Mike brushed off the opportunity to claim bragging rights.
"Maybe for now," he said, adding that his other cousin, Kyle Funkhouser of Oak Forest, was still pitching. Funkhouser threw in relief for Oak Forest, which lost Wednesday night. Earlier that day .
"We weren't really a baseball family," he said of his family's baseball talent. "But we've always been pretty competitive with each other."
That competition showed Wednesday as the cousins faced each other at the plate, too. David led off with a single against Mike, and Mike later singled against David. Mike again had the slight edge, getting hit by a pitch from his cousin in the fifth and then striking out David on a nasty breaking ball the next inning. ("That's not nice, Mike!" Bridie yelled, laughing.)
Providence Catholic coach Mark Smith said he felt confident with his team's start but recognized it's tough to move on in these playoffs.
"I'm not taking anything away from them, because they battled back, but we beat ourselves today," Smith said. "In single-elimination format, you learn really quick it's hard to advance. This was the worst game we've played in about a month."
Marist moves to the sectional championship against the winner of the Lincoln-Way North vs. Homewood-Flossmoor semifinal at 11 a.m. Saturday at Andrew High School in Tinley Park.