Classic battle of Joliet was in the stars
Updated: July 19, 2012 5:50PM
On my baseball scoresheets, stars mark outstanding defensive plays. In most games, you may get one or two.
In Thursday’s Lockport Regional championship game between Joliet Catholic and Joliet West at Ed Flink Field, the Hilltoppers and Tigers created a galaxy all their own.
“This was one of the best baseball games I have ever been part of, spring or summer,” Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss said after the Hilltoppers slipped past the Tigers 1-0 in 10 innings to win the Lockport Regional of the IHSBCA/Phil Lawler Classic and advance to next week’s state tournament at Benedictine University and North Central College.
The pitching was outstanding, as the score suggests. Oh, there were a few errors. But what set this game between our two neighborhood rivals apart was the abundance of sterling defensive plays on both sides. I counted 11 stars.
“When you get in a game like this, pitching and defense are going to win it,” West coach John Karczewski said.
Those meriting stars in my book included shortstop Chris Tschida, first baseman Ryan Peter, center fielder Nick Delasandro and right fielder Ben Figura for Joliet Catholic, left fielder Zack Thomas, second baseman Steven Kotrba, shortstop Cody Grosse and first baseman Alex Lakatos for West.
Tschida, Peter and Lakatos merited multiple stars, and Thomas, Delasandro and Figura all made diving catches which, if this were the major leagues, would make their way onto SportsCenter.
“We were hitting the ball, but that defense started my first time up when I hit the ball well to left field and that kid (Thomas) robbed me,” Hilltoppers leadoff hitter Brock Pluth said. “Then I hit the ball well up the middle the next two times and their shortstop (Grosse) got it. I said, ‘Whatever. Sooner or later I’m going to get something to fall.’ ’’
And he did, slashing a one-out single to right in the 10th and eventually scoring the only run.
One position that did not produce stars was catcher. The Hilltoppers’ Alex Voitik and the Tigers’ Kevin Ganzer were so good, blocking every low pitch, that their efforts almost went unnoticed.
“Both shortstops were excellent, and there were great diving catches in the outfield for both teams,” Voss said. “But how about both catchers going all the way, and I don’t think there was a wild pitch or passed ball in the game.”
As Voss said, it doesn’t matter if this one was played in the summer, spring or some other time. A better high school baseball game would be difficult to find.
Hope you have been following the progress of our local minor leaguers on the chart that is published on Fridays in The Herald-News.
The numbers will tell you who is having a good season overall and who is not. However, there are trends the raw numbers do not show.
For example, take left-handed pitcher Tony Cingrani (Lincoln-Way Central). The Cincinnati farmhand is carrying a 1.29 ERA during his stint at Double-A Pensacola and a 1.19 ERA overall, including a few early starts for A-Advanced Bakersfield. But in his last four starts at Pensacola, beginning with a 15-strikeout, three-hit shutout over eight innings against Bakersfield, he has not allowed an earned run in 27 2/3 innings. He has yielded 11 hits and 10 walks in that time while striking out 29. It is difficult to imagine any pitcher on an upper minor-league level ever having a four-start stretch any better.
Right-hander Brian Stroud (Providence) is with A-Advanced Lakeland in the Detroit organization and also is on a roll. In his last five starts covering 26 innings, he has allowed 15 hits and a mere three earned runs. Overall, he is 1-2 with a 2.83 ERA.
Meanwhile, outfielder Joe Benson (Joliet Catholic) returned to action this month after undergoing surgery May 25 to repair the hook of the hamate bone on his left wrist.
On the rehab trail, Benson went 3-for-8 for the Twins’ team in the Gulf Coast League and 10-for-33 for Fort Myers in the A-Advanced Florida State League. He returned this week to Double-A New Britian, where he was playing at the time of the injury, and entered Thursday 5-for-10 there in three games.
Benson, who played with the parent Twins last September and began this season at Triple-A Rochester, is hitting .225 overall. But with a limited sample size since returning, he does appear to be getting things turned around.
And finally, on the collegiate front, further evidence that 2011 Herald-News Player of the Year Sam Travis (Providence) can flat-out hit. After a Big Ten Freshman of the Year season at Indiana, Travis journeyed to the East Coast to play for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the prestigious Cape Cod League. All he has done so far is hit .349 (37-106), seventh in the league, with nine doubles, three homers and 25 RBI. The RBI total is tied for third in the league.