The Kenosha St. Joseph baseball team experienced a bizarre winning stretch en route to the Divsion 3 state title.
During the regional finals in early June, St. Joseph lost to Racine St. Catherine's and thought that its season was over. Coach Jon Olson and his team had its end-of-year banquet a few days later and players started turning in their uniforms.
But then came a call from St. Catherine's and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. Get your uniforms back on.
St. Catherines discovered that in its win over St. Joseph, it had used an ineligible player.
As a result, the Kenosha team won the regional final game and was able to make a successful run to the championship. St Joseph has now won three titles in the last five years and took the most recent crown with a 19-9 record.
"We had excellent pitching and our defense got us as far as we did,” Olson said.
Joe Pillizzi, a sophomore who compiled a 6-0 record this season, was the winning pitcher in the championship game after giving up five hits in seven innings.
St. Joseph defeated Marathon 4-2 in the final on June 18, scoring three runs with two outs in the top of the seventh and final inning.
Pillizzi, also a third baseman, had two hits in his team's 5-2 semifinal round victory over Elk Mound.
Marathon was the defending state champion and had won 30 games in a row.
It was a far cry from earlier in the tournament when St. Joseph lost 2-1 to St. Catherine's and began its offseason.
“We had our banquet the next day and turned in our uniforms and everything,” Olson said. “The next day, our AD got a call from St. Catherine's who said they had a player who played against us but was ineligible. He was suspended the game before. Their athletic director (Chuck Wood) didn't realize that (under WIAA) rules, he was done for the year. They played him against us. They self-reported it themselves.
“I had already given my (end-of-the-season) speech. Then we find out we're still playing. ... We took advantage of our second chance.”
Chuck Wood, St. Catherine's athletic director, said he didn't realize the suspended athlete had to sit out the rest of the tournament
“I wasn't aware of that rule. This is my first year,” Wood said. “He was ineligible. We made a mistake.”