WJOL tourney tweaked and ready to goDick Goss, The Herald News Sports Editor
Updated: March 14, 2012 9:20PM
With the warm temperatures this week, the local high school baseball season has gotten off to an early start.
An attractive match-up is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday at Silver Cross Field, when Joliet Central takes on Joliet West.
Granted, it is early and neither team’s season will be spoiled with a loss. However, there is significance to the game not normally associated with March 16.
The seventh annual WJOL Area Baseball Invite is scheduled for the weekend of March 30 and 31. When the tournament began, Joliet Township was a combined program and had a spot in the field.
Tournament director Scott Slocum said this week, however, it was unfair to one or the other Joliet Township to be out of the tournament completely in any given year.
So the solution was for the two to play an early game with the winner advancing into the tournament, not unlike what happened this week with the four “first-round” games in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
However, the loser will not be left out in the cold. That team will have the opportunity to play against Morris on the morning of March 30, at Silver Cross, just before the WJOL Tournament teams arrive there and play the games that will decide seventh, fifth, third and first place.
Every team having a game at Silver Cross they otherwise would not have had, regardless of how they fared in Friday’s opener and Saturday morning’s semifinals, always has been one of the major attractions of the tournament. That feature remains for nine teams (including Joliet Central and West), for 10 area teams, with Morris included.
Another tweak is in Friday’s quarterfinal schedule. All games will begin after school hours. The doubleheader at Lockport will pit Minooka against Plainfield Central at 3:45 p.m. and Joliet Catholic against Lockport under the lights at 6:30.
At Providence, the Celtics will take on the winner of the Joliet Central-Joliet West game at 4:30 p.m.. Also at 4:30 at Lemont, as part of the Providence bracket, Lemont will entertain Plainfield South.
As usual, 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Saturday games will be played at both Lockport and Providence, with Friday’s losers matching up first, followed by the championship bracket semifinal. Then everything moves to Silver Cross, with the seventh-place game scheduled for a 12:15 p.m. start. If things stay on schedule, the championship would begin at 7:30.
“We needed somewhere with gates and neither Providence nor Lockport has hosted for a while, so we chose them as places to host,” Slocum said. “They have two great fields and two great programs.
“One thing I like is being able to use the lights at Lockport for the Friday night game between Lockport and Joliet Catholic. What a great way to end the first day, with that game.”
Providence is the defending champion, having edged Joliet Catholic in last year’s finale. Both teams could be outstanding again this season. But what this tournament has proved through the years is that everyone is capable of winning.
“I couldn’t be happier with how this tournament has turned into a major event,” Slocum said. “When area teams put out their goals for the season, one of the things they say is they want to win the WJOL.
“It’s a friendly rivalry between the local schools, but they definitely want to win. It gives the winner a lot of momentum for the rest of the season.”
Imagine if in a couple of weeks, we still are having the kind of weather we are enjoying this week. Local baseball fans would show up in droves that weekend to get a look at many of the top teams in our area.
Meanwhile, for your early rundown on the top area teams and more, The Herald-News’ season preview is scheduled for publication Sunday.