JOLIET – The Joliet Junior College baseball team realized that their first road games of the season were going to be challenging and that proved to be the case as JJC lost four straight on its Texas trip to Tyler Junior College, who are ranked second in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III rankings.
But those early defeats have provided coach Wayne L. King’s Wolves with a valuable gauge as to what they might be able to accomplish this season.
JJC beat Olive-Harvey, 15-5, in eight innings to capture its 11th victory in the past 16 games, while improving to 7-2 at Wayne L. King Field.
The Wolves scored two runs in the first inning and another in the second before breaking the game open with a six-run third, and Olive-Harvey never got any closer than six runs after that with the Wolves
putting the game away with a four-run eighth.
“We went 2-6 down there, but we looked at it as that we played the No. 1 team in the country five times, while we saw our first fly ball outside and they had 25 games already,” Wolves associate head coach Gregg Braun said. “But it’s all about the camaraderie, too. It was huge to go down to Texas, and the guys were together 24-7 for eight days. We have a lot of local guys who played each other and against them in high school. Year after year we pride ourselves on guys from the area and try to polish them up a little bit.”
The Wolves’ offense is led by Zack Lauras (.426 average, 19 RBIs), Jake Suchor (.385), Brock Bolser (.346), Jackson Stulas (.333), Cody Phillips (.317, nine RBIs), Noah Hibler (.291, 12 RBIs), Coliani Martinez (.286, nine RBIs), Jimmy Patock (.280, 11 RBIs) and Matt Duske (11 RBIs).
Top pitchers for JJC have been Andrew Feola (4-1, 3.68 ERA), Cade Thornberry (2.19 ERA), Ethan Petric (2-2) and Patock (2.19 ERA).
“I’ve pretty much played with all of these guys,” Suchor said. “We’ve come back here, and these teams that we’ve played didn’t seem to have much yet. I like the competition that we have with each other since everyone can step up and help the team.”
Sophomores on the team are Nick Airola, Ryan Anderson, Nick Becker, Jake Brnca, Kyle Norstrom, Clint Underwood, Hibler, Suchor and Stulas.
“Everybody has been playing a lot, but we need more people to step up, but we have a lot of freshmen,” Hibler said. “The Texas trip was the first time that we played together this year, and we didn’t have any outdoor practices for those games. Everybody on the team is just super friendly. We’ve had a few injuries, and other guys stepped up.”
With 19 freshmen on the roster the Wolves have a nice mixture of players who have junior college experience, as well as many newcomers, which makes those on the team feel good about what they can achieve this season.
“It was a good for us to get there and play some games against good competition, and we got a few wins there,” Brnca said. “It’s fun to play with guys that we saw in high school and have them be on your college team. It really comes down to our pitching. How they do during the rest of the year will be a big part of our success.”