The chance to be a starter comes late for Lemont’s Nick Berardi. But when it does? ‘You always want your shot.’

The chance to be a starter comes late for Lemont’s Nick Berardi. But when it does? ‘You always want your shot.’

Nick Berardi had to stay patient, waiting until his senior year to get his first chance at being a regular starter at first base this spring for Lemont.

Even then, things weren’t easy, but Berardi stuck with it.

“You always want your shot,” he said. “You always want to play, but it starts with work ethic. Last year, I’m not playing, so what am I doing? I’m grinding. I’m going to the gym. I’m putting in work outside of practice and making sure I get in good practices and don’t just go through the motions.

“It’s making sure when I do get my chance, I make the most of that opportunity and don’t blow it.”

Now, Berardi has helped pull his team within one win of a state championship.

He produced an RBI single, reached base twice and scored a run Friday afternoon as Lemont topped Highland 6-3 in a Class 3A state semifinal at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet.

Shea Glotzbach worked five innings, allowing three earned runs on three hits to earn the pitching win for Lemont (31-9). Donovan Moleski provided two scoreless innings of relief. Brett Tucker went 2-for-3 with a two-run triple, while Max Michalak added a two-run single.

Lemont will try for the program’s third title at 1 p.m. Saturday in the state championship game vs. Crystal Lake Central (21-14), a 5-2 winner over Morris. Lemont also won in 2014 and 2016.

Chase Knebel had an RBI and pitched a complete game for Highland (32-7-1).

Lemont’s Nick Berardi (7) connects against Highland during the Class 3A state semifinals at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Berardi, however, responded by coming through with an RBI infield single in the fourth inning, driving in Tucker from third base to give Lemont a 3-1 lead.

“That was great,” Berardi said. “I just choked all the way up, being a team player and not being selfish. I didn’t want to do too much — just put the ball in play and get Brett home.

“I didn’t care where I hit it.”

It came after Tucker’s two-run triple put the team on top, and Lemont was able to ride that momentum from the three-run outburst the rest of the way.

Lemont’s Shea Glotzbach delivers a pitch against Highland during the Class 3A state semifinals at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Lemont coach Brian Storako is thrilled with how his team has peaked in the playoffs.

“It’s been great,” Storako said. “These guys worked their butts off this year and struck through some adversity. They didn’t give up. They kept battling and kept working, and here we are.”

Glotzbach and his teammates are happy to be making a name for themselves after Lemont’s softball team won state championships the last two seasons.

“It means a lot to represent the program and the town and show that we’re not just a softball town,” Glotzbach said. “We’re a baseball town, too, and we can beat anybody.”

Lemont’s Nick Berardi (7) congratulates pitcher Shea Glotzbach against Highland during the Class 3A state semifinals at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet on Friday, June 7, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Berardi is part of a quartet of senior starters who all did not see much playing time last season. He had to work to find a full-time role this year.

“In the beginning of the season, I was in and out of the lineup and couldn’t really find my groove,” Berardi said. “Toward the end of the season, I’m like, ‘I’ve got to step up.’ It’s putting in that extra work and being able to step up, that makes a real difference for your team.

“You’ve got to want it.”

Berardi certainly wants that state championship, especially since it will be his final competitive baseball game. He does not plan to play in college.

“You can’t get better than this,” Berardi said. “I’ve been playing every game like it’s my last. Any game could be. I’ve been thinking, ‘Oh, this is it for me. After this, I’m done.’

“So I want to give everything out there, let all my hard work show up and make sure I make the most of it.”