JOLIET — One inning cost the Minooka Indians baseball team from having a shot to play for its fourth WJOL baseball tournament championship on Saturday. Instead, the Indians had to settle for third place, as they defeated Plainfield South 14-2 in the consolation game later that night at Silver Cross Field.
That one inning for the Indians was the seventh inning of the semifinal game against Providence. The game was scoreless heading into the top half of the inning, as both pitching staffs were able to get out of tough spots all day. That all changed in the seventh, though, as Minooka seemed to finally get a serious threat going.
With two outs and a runner on third base, Neal Tyrell stepped up to bat for the Indians. After facing one pitch, a ball, from Providence’s Dylan Rosa, head coach Mark Smith came out and decided to make a pitching change, bringing in senior Kyle Crawford. At the time, it raised a lot of eyebrows around the stadium.
“Dylan is a junior, and had never been in a situation like that before. When he stepped off the mound, I could see that he had a look of uncertainty of him,” Smith said. “At that point, I thought we needed to get him out and go with the senior.”
So Crawford came in, already down to a 1-0 count on Tyrell. He then proceeded to walk Tyrell as well as the next batter, Tyler Desmaris, to load up the bases for senior Joe Carnagio. Carnagio, who was a hero last year during the playoff run for the Indians, stepped up big again, hitting a ground ball up the middle for a base hit, bringing in Mitch Vogrin and Tyrell to give Minooka a 2-0 lead.
Providence would not go away, though, as they also saved their best inning for last. It started right from the get-go for the Celtics, as Deavon Williams hit a solo homerun off of Indians’ reliever Steve Szymanski, cutting the Minooka lead in half. After a hit by pitch and a sacrifice bunt put a runner at second base with one out, Nick Sanders hit a roller to Tyrell at shortstop, but the throw was low and under the glove of Max Brozovich at first, allowing Duke Hill to score the tying run.
After a single from Billy Quirke put runners on first and second with one out, Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic came out and took out Szymanski, replacing him with junior Trevor Mally, who was making his first appearance in a varsity game. Mally showed some jitters early, as his first pitch went to the back stop, allowing the runners to advance a base. The misfortune of the inning finally all came to an end, as five pitches later, Phil Kunsa hit a walk-off, three-run homerun over the centerfield wall, advancing the Celtics to the WJOL title game — a game they won 7-4 over Lockport.
“We knew with zeros on the scoreboard, it was going to come down to hitting there late,” Kunsa said. “I’ve hit a walk-off before, but it was in a summer league. So this one is special.”
It was a much tougher pill to swallow on the other side for the Indians.
“I think we all thought that the game was over after we took the lead, even though we still had another half inning to play,” Carnagio said. “Providence is always good, and we knew that they weren’t going to give up. Finishing the inning is something we’ll have to learn, but I know we’ll fix it up.”
“It was a great six innings,” Petrovic added. “It really was a well-played game for six innings. I thought both starters did great today. We just hurt ourselves a lot. We had runners in scoring position in every inning, and just couldn’t capitalize. If you don’t capitalize on your offensive opportunities and create a lot of opportunities for them, it’s not a good equation for success.”
Motivated by their tough defeat to the Celtics, the Indians came out on fire in the third place game against Plainfield South, scoring two runs in the first, seven in the second, and five more runs in the sixth inning to take down the Cougars 14-2 in six innings. Minooka benefited from five errors from South as well as belting out 11 hits in the victory.
“We just wanted to jump out quickly on them and try and put the bad loss from earlier behind us,” Tyrell said, who had three hits in the nightcap. “We wanted to come out of the tournament 2-2 instead of 1-3, so we had to play well today, which is what we did.”
Southwest Prairie Conference play starts for the Indians Tuesday as they open up a three-game series with Plainfield Central on the road.