MINOOKA – Both coaches agreed that Monday’s game between Joliet Catholic Academy and Minooka in the 2018 Phil Lawler Summer Baseball State Tournament was not the cleanest game either team has played.
In the end, JCA – the eighth seed in the 12-team Lockport Regional – overcame its mistakes more effectively than Minooka did, and the Hilltoppers scored an 8-5 win over the top-seeded Indians to advance to Tuesday’s 10 a.m. semifinal at Lockport.
JCA, which beat ninth-seeded Tinley Park 11-1 in a game immediately before this one, fell behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first as Minooka scored without the benefit of a hit. With one out in the bottom of the first, Minooka’s Nick Gough walked and stole second. An out later, he stole third and came home when the throw went into left field.
The Hilltoppers quickly answered. With one out in the top of the second, Tony Fleischauer doubled to center and went to third on a single by Nick Iannantone. A bouncing single to right by Mike Gurka scored Fleischauer to tie the game before Joe Batusich singled to left to plate Iannantone. A wild pitch scored Gurka for a 3-1 JCA lead before Christian Knapczyk singled with two outs to score Batusich.
Minooka again manufactured a run without a hit in the third, and again it was Gough in the middle. He walked with two outs and went to second on a wild pitch. A throwing error on a grounder hit by Kyle Czarnecki brought home Gough to make it 4-2.
After Minooka’s Brandon Keyster held JCA scoreless in the third and fourth innings, Zach Stoner led off the bottom of the fourth with Minooka’s first hit off JCA starter Alex Vera. Cooper Herold followed with a single, starting a three-run rally that ended on a sacrifice fly by Sam Bururis to give the Indians a 5-4 edge.
JCA tied the game in the fifth on an RBI fielder’s choice by Fleischauer and put the game away with three runs in the top of the sixth. The big blow in the inning was an RBI double by Max Cullen, who had two doubles in the game.
“This was not our best game, especially defensively,” JCA assistant coach Ryan Quigley said. “We had some mistakes by guys who don’t usually make them. But, to their credit, they didn’t let it get them down and affect them at the plate. We swung the bat well today.”
“We gave them quite a few extra outs,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us. They [JCA] started, I think, eight seniors and we started eight juniors and one senior. There is a lot to be learned from today.”