Joliet Catholic claims fourth straight regional
Updated: May 28, 2011 11:15PM
The Hilltoppers are getting hot at the right time of the spring.
Joliet Catholic (22-9) won for the eighth time in its last nine outings and captured its fourth straight regional title with a 4-1 win over Evergreen Park (15-16) in the title game of the 3A Joliet Catholic Regional at Gillespie Field on Saturday morning. The Hilltoppers, who also have added sectional and supersectional titles in each of the last three years, will take their next step on Wednesday evening when they play Lemont in the second semifinal of the Lincoln-Way West Sectional.
Junior pitcher Nate Searing tossed a six-hitter and struck out eight in the complete game. He allowed more than one hit in just one inning and that frame accounted for the only run that Evergreen Park was able to muster.
“I wasn’t throwing that hard today,” Searing said, “but I was able to hit my spots. My slider was dirty today and that more than made up for my lack of velocity.”
Searing was spotted a 4-0 lead after three innings and had allowed only one hit and one walk in the first three frames. He got touched for an infield single and a run-scoring double in the fourth but did not let a Mustang get beyond second base the rest of the way.
“Searing has been very solid for us in the starting role,” Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss said. “When he has his slider working like he did today, he can be especially tough. He is also the ultimate competitor and gives you everything he’s got when he steps out there. You can see it in the way he throws the ball and the way he attacks hitters.”
The Hillmen started their scoring with a run in the first on an RBI single by first baseman Ryan Peter that followed base hits by center fielder Cody Columbus and third baseman Kyle Cunningham.
Joliet Catholic got two more in the second when second baseman Zach Melone singled home a run and later scored on a wild pitch. The fourth Hilltoppers run crossed home in the third on an RBI single by designated hitter Adrian Nunez.
Joliet Catholic reached the regional final with an 8-0 win over T.F. North on Friday.
Junior southpaw Kevin Duchene was the star in that win, tossing the first no-hitter of his varsity career.
Duchene faced just one batter over the minimum in the seven-inning gem, walking just one. He struck out 14 and, with the help of eight runs from his teammates, made it an easy day for the Hillmen.
“It was my first no-hitter,” Duchene said, “but honestly I thought I had better stuff earlier this year against Marian Catholic. I had a little bit better command of the strike zone against Marian and had a much better changeup that day. I didn’t need my changeup much (Friday) and was able to keep them off base with my other pitches.”
Duchene knows the importance of each game in the single-elimination format of the state tournament.
“It’s win-or-go-home and it was important for me to set the tone (Friday) with a win,” the Joliet Catholic ace said. “Anybody who saw us play yesterday and again today knows that we are playing well and will be ready for anything we face in the tournament.”