Baseball: Chris Tschida, Joliet Catholic roll into championship gameJoliet Catholic Academy's Cal Placher delivers a pitch against St. Laurence during the Phil Lawler Summer Classic at Benedictine University Thursday, July 26, 2012, at 5700 College Rd. in Lisle. Joliet Catholic Academy won 7-4. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 26, 2012 5:11PM
Home runs aren’t an everyday event at Benedictine’s baseball field during the unofficial summer state tournament.
Nevertheless, Chris Tschida did want to act like he’d been in that spot before.
Tschida slugged a two-run homer over the left-field wall Thursday morning to keep Joliet Catholic rolling in the Lawler semifinals.
The Hilltoppers opened a big lead and held off St. Laurence 7-4 to earn a rematch with Lyons, the team that beat Joliet Catholic 6-2 in Monday’s tourney opener, in Thursday night’s title game.
Tschida, an all-state shortstop this spring now limited to DH duty because of a strained quad muscle, had another big day in the semifinal. His RBI single in the first inning gave the Hilltoppers (20-3) a lead they never lost and his third-inning homer with Ryan Peter aboard made it 3-0.
“Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone,” Tschida said. “But I didn’t want to make a scene out of it.”
So Tschida jogged around the bases and let his numbers — 3-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI — do the talking.
“I’m just trying to stay back, let the ball come to me,” he said. “I’m not trying to do too much, not trying to do too little.”
Joliet Catholic kept scoring in the fourth, adding four more runs to make it 7-0. Ben Figura singled home a run before Nick Dalesandro doubled home two more and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
“We’re a good-hitting team,” Tschida said. “We’ll be a great-hitting team next year.”
The cushion was a rare luxury for Joliet Catholic starter Cal Placher, who shut out St. Laurence on two hits over the first four innings.
“He’s been good all year,” Tschida said. “(But) when he pitches, we never hit. That (summer) regional championship, we only won 1-0 in 10 innings and he didn’t get the win.
“Same thing this spring. We never got hits for him. We owed him one.”
The big lead came in handy when St. Laurence’s offense finally came alive in the later innings. T.J. Marik doubled home a run and Brad Wood added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 5-2, but Placher struck out cleanup hitter Zach Lewis with the bases loaded to end that threat.
The Vikings pulled within 7-4 in the sixth, scoring on Kevin White’s RBI single and an error. But Joliet Catholic’s Matt Testa got Mike Kornacker to hit into a inning-ending forceout with the bases loaded.
“Those fifth and sixth innings, we were one hit away from making it closer,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said. “When we’re down 7-0, we talked to the kids about chipping away. ... We wanted to put pressure on them and we did that.”
But Dalesandro came on to pitch in the bottom of the seventh and worked a 1-2-3 inning to send the Hilltoppers to the finals.
“At this point, you expect guys to step up,” Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss said.
Peter added two hits for the Hilltoppers, while rising sophomore Jake Tholl went 3-for-4 with a run for St. Laurence.
Contributing: Tim O’Brien