Baseball: Nazareth edges Benet for Milano's 500th win
Joseph Milano sat crouched in a catcher's position patiently waiting for each pitch.
The Nazareth senior wasn't behind the plate. Nor was he even in the field of play.
Joseph Milano was in the outfield, near the bullpen area. He was nervously watching each pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning in Monday's game against Benet.
His twin brother, Anthony Milano, had a better viewing spot. He was standing near the on-deck circle, also anxiously watching and hoping for an opportunity to make a lifetime imprint for his father.
On Monday afternoon, amid a sunny afternoon, R.J. Sanders Field was the ideal place to be for any Nazareth baseball supporter.
This was no ordinary East Suburban Catholic Conference baseball game.
Sure, the Redwings were on a hot streak with seven consecutive wins, and the Roadrunners needed one more "W" to secure a 20-win season.
But that was just the appetizer. The main objective and driving force for Nazareth was to notch coach Lee Milano's 500th career victory at the LaGrange school.
Senior Wylder Guido memorialized his name in program history in the bottom of the seventh, slapping an RBI single to center field to cap a stunning 4-3 comeback over Benet.
"Coach Milano means a lot to me," Guido said. "I've known him since I was little. He's always been right behind me. I really wanted to get this one for him. I was confident and ready. I shortened my swing and choked up. This was awesome, to do it for coach on such a big day."
Lee Milano, who guided the Roadrunners to their 16th 20-win season since taking over the program in 1999-2000, was at the epicenter of the postgame party that featured many former players, friends and parents of players.
The elder Milano received numerous personalized "500" signs, a large blue-colored "500" balloon, a large blue and white cake -- and a cold Gatorade bath nearly 15 minutes after the winning run scored.
"I don't know if (dad) was too happy with Gatorade, for I might get in trouble later," Anthony Milano said, smiling ear-to-ear after he drenched his dad.
Lee Milano said his last Gatorade shower was in 2018, when the Roadrunners (20-6, 9-6) won the Class 3A sectional.
Walk-off wins are always special, but Guido's hit capped off a memorable rally. The Roadrunners trailed 3-0 early in the game, and scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to not let the overflowing crowd go home disappointed.
"I was worried going into the game and didn't want to talk about the 500," Lee Milano said, now sporting a 500-261 record at Nazareth. "It showed the first couple of innings. There was a lot of adrenaline. I'm just very lucky, from the parents and players we've had here. I won my first game (here) a couple of weeks after my eldest son was born in March 2020. It seems like yesterday. It's surreal for me. It's gone by so quick, and I've been fortunate to having all four of my kids involved.
"They grew up here. I was so fortunate. I've had great parents, administration and parents. This was a great atmosphere, almost like a playoff atmosphere. Every pitch mattered. It's a good win. Benet is a hot team. This is a big win for us before (Tuesday's) seeding meeting. I've known a lot of these kids for a long time."
Anthony Milano said it was a special team for the Nazareth baseball family -- and his family.
"This is everything I've dreamed of for four years," Milano said. "To be playing at home, in front of the whole school. It was a close game, a walk-off win. What more can you ask for? I remember wins 200, 300 and 400. I've been counting down since my freshman year and doing the math. It's finally here."
Joseph Milano, who will continue his baseball career with Anthony next year at Triton College, agreed.
"It was very nerve-racking, but I knew this team has a bunch of talent," he said. "I knew we could do it. It's special. I've dreamed of this my whole life. Last year, I knew we needed 20 wins in my senior year to accomplish this, but to do it at home is just special. Words can't describe how happy I'm right now."
Benet (10-8, 7-4) nearly spoiled the party, scoring two runs off Nazareth starter Ryan Smith in the top of the first inning. The Redwings led 3-0 until the Roadrunners tacked on a run in the third on Luke Bradham's hit.
In the seventh, Sebastian Gutierrez, who made a highlight-reel catch in left field to end the top of the fourth, tied the game with an RBI single. Two batters later, Guido strolled to the plate, knocking a two-strike single to set off a wild scene on the field and in the stands.
Benet coach Scott Lawler praised the Roadrunners for mounting a memorable comeback.
"It was just a really good conference game," Lawler said. "Anytime we play Nazareth, it's a special game."