CHANNAHON – The great equalizer in baseball is an ace pitcher.
Channahon found that out Sunday morning in the semifnals of the Bronco North Zone Tournament, when they ran into Kankakee’s Tyler Hiller.
Hiller kept the normally potent Channahon offense at bay just long enough to let Kankakee squeak out a 4-3 win. He allowed just five hits and one walk while striking out 12.
He also retired the first 10 batters he faced en route to ending the Channahon team’s quest to reach the Bronco World Series in Los Alomitos, California. Kankakee lost, 9-8, to Lafayette, Indiana in the title game Sunday afternoon.
“We knew we would be facing [Hiller],” Channahon coach Jason Bisbee said. “He has dominated every inning he has pitched. He’s probably the best pitcher here. I don’t think I have seen him give up a run until today.
“But, after a couple of times through the order, we were able to get some hits off of him and had some momentum going. We just ran out of time.”
Kankakee, meanwhile, staked Hiller to a 1-0 lead in the first when leadoff batter Owen Jackson walked, stole second and third and scored on a groundout.
Channahon starting pitcher Jared Butts matched Hiller pitch for pitch after that, and did not allow his first hit until the fourth inning. Butts threw five innings, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out five.
Kankakee touched reliever Brandon Keyster for three runs, just one of which was earned, in the sixth, to take a 4-1 lead, but it was far from over.
Keyster – who tied the game with an RBI double in the fourth, driving in Tim Barys, who had singled for Channahon’s first hit – led off the seventh with another double. An out later, a single by Matthew Sitar put runners on first and third, and Sitar then stole second.
With two outs, Jared Bisbee grounded to second, but the throw was wild, allowing both Keyster and Sitar to score and make it, 4-3. Dallas VanMeter walked, and both runners moved up on a passed ball to put the tying run on third and the winning run on second, but Hiller struck out the final batter of the game to end it.
“When we were down, 4-1, in the sixth, if you would have told me we would have the winning run in scoring position, I would have taken it,” Bisbee said. “These kids are a special group. They never quit.
“It’s tough on these guys right now. They are pretty emotional. This was a tough loss. But, to see where they have come from, they have been practicing together since January, it’s tough to see them get that close. But, they should be proud of themselves and proud of each other. They gave it everything they had. They just ran into a very good pitcher who had a very good game.”
Channahon got a spark off the bench from Sam Beck, who tripled with one out in the fifth, but was unable to make it home.
“That was a big at-bat for us by Sam Beck, even though we didn’t score that inning.” Bisbee said. “It gave us a bit of a spark that we needed, and we swung the bats better after that.
“Also, I can’t say enough about the support these kids got from their families and the current and former board members that came out here to watch and help out. We had our rain detail going all weekend, and even though we never got the rain that was predicted, we had extra people around helping put the tarp on the field Friday and Saturday nights and help getting the field ready each morning. Guys like Tim Warren, Dave Holmes and Jeff White were a lot of help. I know I am missing out on naming some people, but we had so much help and we are very appreciative of it. The field looked great and I think people will be excited about hosting this tournament again.”
Channahon beat Berwyn, 18-0, Saturday to go 3-0 in pool play and earn the top seed in the semifinals.