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Minooka edges out JCA for WJOL championship

Minooka starting pitcher Mitch Malone against Joliet Catholic Saturday at the WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial baseball tournament held at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Minooka starting pitcher Mitch Malone against Joliet Catholic Saturday at the WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial baseball tournament held at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.

JOLIET – There is something about the championship games in the WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial Baseball Tournament at Silver Cross Field. They are all great games.

Joliet Catholic’s touted sophomore Drake Fellows hooked up with Minooka senior Mitch Malone on a chilly Saturday night in a classic coming-out party for both right-handers.

The Indians finally pushed across a run in the top of the 10th inning, thanks to Neal Tyrell’s heads-up baserunning and Cristian Sanchez’s clutch single, to claim a 1-0 victory and secure their fourth title in the 10-year history of the event. Providence has three and Joliet Catholic two.

Fellows tossed a two-hitter over seven innings, struck out nine and walked nobody. A fastball that approaches 90 mph has made his reputation, but he showed he is a pitcher, not merely a thrower. He stayed ahead in the count, worked his breaking ball into the mix and had Minooka hitters waving much of the night.

However, the Indians were right there, step for step, as Malone used all his pitches to blank the Hilltoppers through five innings. When he needed to bear down, he did.

Minooka entered the championship game having not allowed a run in the tournament. JCA had allowed three total in its two victories, so signs pointed to a pitchers’ duel.

The Hilltoppers loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the fourth on singles by Mitch Boe and Nick Dalesandro and Aaron Markley’s bunt single. But Malone induced an infield popup from Keegan Tyrell, a strikeout of John Kalisik and Jake Jackovich’s fielder’s choice.

Malone worked the first five innings, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out four. Trevor Maly relieved to open the sixth and the Hillltoppers loaded the bases with one out. But Maly, who would work 3 2⁄3 innings, escaped on a strikeout and ground ball. Joe Butler, the third Minooka pitcher, got the win after striking out the side and stranding two in the bottom of the 10th.

Jackovich relieved Fellows and worked a perfect eighth inning. Danny Ehrsam, who relieved in the ninth.

As is the norm in a 1-0 game between two storied programs, defense also was huge.

Minooka second baseman Jake Null turned in a big-time stop to deny Kalisik a hit, and right fielder Sanchez ranged into right-center field to pull down Boe’s long drive and end the fifth.

The Hilltoppers were equally effective with the leather. Boe had a half-dozen assists at shortstop, and first baseman Markley continue his tournament-long run of scooping throws in the dirt. Boe’s play up the middle and strong arm prevented the Indians from scoring in the eighth.

Null began that rally with a two-out single to right. He advanced on a passed ball, and Neal Tyrell beat out and infield hit, his second hit, before stealing his second base of the game. Sanchez appeared he may have come through to snap the tie, but Boe ranged far to his left to gun him down.

Minooka put the first men on in the ninth on Cole Thompson’s single and a hit batsman, but Ehrsam came on and retired the next three hitters.

Jackovich began the bottom of the ninth with a single, but Null started a 4-3 double play. Dan Devine’s single and walks to Bannon and Boe loaded the bases for Dalesandro, who fanned as the Hilltoppers left the bases loaded a third time.

Tyrell stroked his third straight hit with two outs in the 10th, advanced on a wild pitch and kept going to third when the Hilltoppers held the ball. Sanchez’s grounder up the middle knocked in the run, but not before second baseman Bannon made a diving stop and a spectacular play attempting to get Sanchez.

It was that kind of a final.

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