With his travel ball commitments, Matt Testa wasn’t available to pitch for Joliet Catholic this summer.
But when the Hilltoppers needed him Monday afternoon, Testa came through. The rising senior pitched three-hit ball over six innings as Joliet Catholic beat Wauconda 7-1 at Benedictine University in Lisle to stay alive in the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
The Hilltoppers (17-3), who dropped their opener 6-2 to Lyons, will play at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday against the loser of Tuesday’s opener between Lyons and Maine South. At stake will be a berth in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Testa made sure that would be a possibility for the Hilltoppers, holding down Wauconda till his team’s bats woke up in the later innings.
“I was feeling good,” said Testa, who struck out four and walked one. “My fastball was working, it was moving a lot. My slider was good, too.”
“Guys need to step up and Matt did,” Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss said. “He had a good year as a junior. So he’s going to be one of those guys we expect a lot out of in the spring.”
Chris Tschida, limited to DH duties because of an injury, gave the Hilltoppers a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with an RBI double. Wauconda tied it on Luke Kenny’s run-scoring single in the third and the deadlock remained till Nick Delesandro’s RBI single for Joliet Catholic in the bottom of the fifth.
The Hilltoppers then broke the game open in the sixth. After making it 3-1 on an unearned run, Joliet Catholic got a two-run single by Brock Pluth and a two-run double by Delesandro.
Pluth was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk to finish the day 3-for-6 with two walks. “It’s nice to have Brock step up and be the spark at the top,” Voss said.
Delesandro and Tschida added two hits each for the Hilltoppers. Brandon Gibis had two of Wauconda’s three hits off Testa and Cal Placher, who pitched the seventh and struck out two.
Earlier in the day, Joliet Catholic had no answer for Lyons’ Keith Lehmann, who has been an integral part of the Lions’ runs to the IHSA Class 4A title game each of the past two seasons.
Lehmann pitched a four-hitter, striking out five and walking five for the Lions, who broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the fifth.
“He was awesome,” Voss said of Lehmann. “He was one of the better pitchers I’ve seen coaching. You don’t come across a lot of guys (throwing) in the upper 80s, 90 mph every day.”
The Hilltoppers were limited to single runs in the first, when Pluth scored on a wild pitch, and third, when Tschida singled home Pluth.
“Tough opening draw,” Voss said. “I thought they battled at the plate against (Lehmann). I wasn’t disappointed at all.”