Baseball: Chris Tschida, Nick Dalesandro key Joliet Catholic victory

Story Image With the tempatures in triple digits Jean Depkon, of Park Ridge, uses an umbrella to provide shelter for her grand daughters Mary and Anna during the game between Joliet Catholic and Maine South for the state summer tournament, Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 in Naperville, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: July 25, 2012 6:03PM

The spring and summer seasons have taken some unexpected turns for Chris Tschida, Joliet Catholic’s star shortstop.

He personally had a great season, hitting around .500 and earning all-state honors. But Tschida was left with an empty feeling when the Hilltoppers were eliminated in the Class 3A sectional semifinals by Lincoln-Way West.

And a strained quad muscle has limited the rising senior to just one weekend of travel ball and forced him into a DH role for Joliet Catholic’s summer team.

“It sucks,” Tschida said. “But I just do what I’ve got to do for my team.”

On Wednesday afternoon, he drove in three runs as the Hilltoppers knocked off Maine South 7-5 at North Central College in Naperville in the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Phil Lawler Summer Classic.

It was the second straight elimination-game win for Joliet Catholic (18-3), which plays St. Laurence at 10 a.m. Thursday at Benedictine University in Lisle in the semifinals of the unofficial summer state tourney. The winner advances to the 7 p.m. title game Thursday, also at Benedictine.

Joliet Catholic spotted Maine South (17-9) a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, but scrambled back into contention on Tschida’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first, Brock Pluth’s RBI single in the second and Alex Voitik’s RBI single in the fifth.

The Hilltoppers then took their first lead in the sixth, scoring four times. Rising sophomore Nick Dalesandro (2-for-4), ranked No. 1 in Illinois in the Class of 2015 by Prep Baseball Report, broke the tie with an RBI single up the middle. Tschida (2-for-3) followed with a two-run single to left and Voitik (2-for-4) singled up the middle to drive in another run.

Dalesandro’s emergence as the Hilltoppers’ next star may have something to do with his friendship with Tschida, the team’s current leader.

“He’s like an older brother to me,” Dalesandro said. “He takes me to practice (because) I don’t have a car, we go out to eat together.”

“He’s a great and goofy kid,” Tschida said. “Everybody loves the kid. I knew he was going to be good. I felt like people weren’t going to like him in the spring — he’s a freshman on the varsity. But he’s an awesome kid. He’s one of my best friends.”

The extra runs came in handy because Maine South rallied in the top of the seventh. Zach Jones had an RBI single and Bobby Pennington was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to cut the margin to 7-5. But reliever Cal Placher struck out the next two hitters to save the win for Sam Couch, who gave up five runs (three earned) in six-plus innings.

“We battled till the very end,” said Maine South coach Bill Milano, whose team was missing three starters playing for the Maine South football team at a national 7-on-7 event in Hoover, Ala.

Milano didn’t use that or the schedule as an excuse. Maine South lost to Lyons minutes before facing Joliet Catholic, which was playing its first game of the exceptionally hot and humid day.

“We went inside (North Central’s gym) and rested,” Mliano said. “We came out and scored three runs (in the first inning), which showed me their heads were in the game.”

The Hawks took advantage of two Joliet Catholic errors in the first inning, when Pennington (2-for-3) and Adam Depkon (2-for-4) contributed RBI hits.

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