Baseball: Joliet Catholic’s Chris Tschida comes up clutch in classicJoliet Catholic's Brock Pluth scores the only run of the game to win it for the Hilltoppers in the tenth inning against Joliet West during their summer league regional championship game in Lockport Thurssday July 19, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 19, 2012 8:41PM
For 10 innings Thursday afternoon, the glove work of Joliet Catholic shortstop Chris Tschida was a major reason the Hilltoppers were able to hang with Joliet West.
But the All-Stater also is the main man with the bat, and when the chips were down, he delivered.
Tschida drove a 3-and-2 pitch from West right-hander Quinn Ahern through a drawn-in infield to drive home Brock Pluth with one out in the bottom of the 10th to give the Hilltoppers a thrilling 1-0 victory over the Tigers (15-11) in the Lockport Regional championship game of the IHSBCA/Phil Lawler Classic summer state tournament at Ed Flink Field.
“We had three or four games like this in the spring and won every one of them, so I was confident we could do it,” Tschida said. “I just try to stay back and hit the ball up the middle and let good things happen.”
The difficult part from an offensive perspective, for both sides, was that both were incredible with the leather.
“You knew the battle of Joliet, this would be hard fought,” said Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss, whose team will meet the Fenwick Regional winner at 10 a.m. Monday at Benedictine University for the start of state pool play. “Both sides hustled and played as hard as they could.”
“There are people who said we can’t play with them,” West coach John Karczewski said. “Not only can we play with them, we can play with anybody. I’ll take these kids of mine any day of the week.”
With pitching theoretically getting thin at the tail end of a 20-team, four-day regional, West right-hander Alex Stobbe and Joliet Catholic right-hander Cal Placher began a classic duel.
Stobbe, normally a reliever, threw 52 pitches in blanking the Hilltoppers (17-2) over five innings. He walked nobody and struck out nobody.
“They’re supposed to be a good-hitting team, and Stobbe kept them off balance,” Karczewski said.
Ace right-hander Jake Herron, who pitched six innings two nights earlier, contributed two scoreless innings of relief, and Ahern was working his third inning when Tschida ended it.
Placher, who escaped first- and second-inning jams, did not allow a hit until Kevin Ganzer’s one-out single in the sixth. Center fielder Nick Delasandro, who saved the game in the sixth when he raced into right-center and made a diving catch to rob Joe Pharo of an RBI double, pitched the final four innings and gained the victory.
“I got a good jump and concentrated on the ball,” Delasandro said of his highlight-reel game-saver. “You just have to go get it.”
“That was a great catch,” Karczewski said. “He (Ganzer) was running and would have scored.”
West had runners on first and third with one out in the top of the 10th, but a nice play by first baseman Ryan Peter on a slow grounder and a Delasandro strikeout kept the game scoreless.
Pluth singled with one out in the bottom of the 10th, moved to second on Delasandro’s second hit and reached third safely when Ahern’s leg stopped Peter’s shot up the middle and Ahern tried for the forceout, setting the stage for Tschida’s heroics.
The Hilltoppers finished with 10 hits, the Tigers with three, two in the 10th.