JOLIET – With Wednesday’s 5-3 victory at Plainfield South, Minooka improved to 13-3, including 7-1 in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
Senior catcher Tyler Desmarais is a big reason.
Desmarais reached base three times, scored twice, ripped a key run-scoring double in a three-run fourth inning, ran the bases with his usual abandon and was flawless defensively.
“Tyler is amazing behind the plate,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “You can’t get balls past him.
“He gives our pitchers confidence they can throw balls in the dirt with men on base. He has had a huge impact on our season.”
After falling behind 4-0, South (5-9, 3-4) battled back to within 4-3 when Marco Melgoza and Matt Taller, both of whom had two hits, notched two-out, run-scoring singles in the bottom of the fifth. However, the Cougars had to earn everything they got as the Minooka battery – starter Mitch Malone and reliever Trevor Maly throwing to Desmarais – had no wild pitches or passed balls.
In contrast, South had five such miscues. Minooka, in fact, scored two runs on wild pitches. Cougars right-hander Shane Ritter allowed two earned runs and four hits while striking out seven in going the distance.
“Ritter pitched a great game,” South coach Phil Bodone said. “That’s been our story. We don’t make routine plays and we can’t get the big hit. Minooka’s really good; we have to get better. You can’t give them extra outs and extra bases.”
Lefty Trevor Henderson pitched well in Tuesday’s series opener but Minooka’s Mitch Vogrin was a little better as the Indians prevailed, 3-0.
As Desmarais demonstrated Wednesday, the Indians can scratch out runs even when the bats are relatively silent.
He was hit by a pitch in the second, stole second, hustled to third on a wild pitch that got no more than a few feet from the catcher and scored on a wild pitch.
He doubled in a run and scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, and Kenny Walsh chipped in an RBI single.
In the sixth, although Minooka failed to score, Desmarais went first-to-third on Tyler Paulsen’s second single, forcing an overthrow at third that allowed Paulsen to move up to second.
Neal Tyrell’s stolen base led to an insurance run in the seventh.
“I like the running game,” Desmarais said. “I liked to watch my [older] brother Darren when he played baseball. He ran like that.”
Malone lasted 4 2⁄3 innings and gained the victory. South had runners on second and third with one out in the third and failed to score; and loaded the bases on three singles with nobody out in the fourth, but scored only once as shortstop Tyrell turned a hard-hit ball up the middle into a huge double play.
“Malone and Maly are always good at getting outs,” Desmarais said. “They do it consistently.”
“Sometimes you win when you don’t play well,” Petrovic said. “We benefited from a couple of their defensive plays, but they battled back. They’re a tough team.
“The double play Neal [Tyrell] started was a real inning killer. Mitch [Malone] didn’t have his best stuff, but he hung in there.”
As for Thursday’s final game of the series, Desmarais said, “We want to sweep this team. It’s the Ridge Road rivalry. They beat us two out of three last year.”
Bodine’s take? “We have to find a way to win. This thing is starting to snowball.”