MINOOKA — Both coaches agreed that Monday's game between Joliet Catholic Academy and Minooka in the 2018 Phil Lawler Summer Baseball State Tournament was not the cleanest game either team has played.
In the end, JCA - the eighth seed in the 12-team Lockport Regional - overcame their mistakes more effectively than Minooka did, and the Hilltoppers scored an 8-5 win over the top-seeded Indians to advance to Tuesday's 10 a.m. semifinal at Lockport.
JCA, which beat ninth-seeded Tinley Park 11-1 in a game immediately before this one, fell behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first as Minooka scored without the benefit of a hit. With one out in the bottom of the first, Minooka's Nick Gough walked, then stole second. An out later, he stole third and came home when the throw went into left field.
The Hilltoppers answered quickly. With one out in the top of the second, Tony Fleischauer doubled to center and went to third on a single by Nick Iannantone. A boucing single to right by Mike Gurka scored Fleischauer to tie the game before Joe Batusich singled to left to plate Iannantone. A wild pitch scored Gurka for a 3-1 JCA lead before Christian Knapczyk singled through the middle with two outs to score Batusich and put JCA ahead, 4-1.
Minooka again manufacured a run without a hit in the third, and again it was Gough in the middle. He walked with two outs and went to second on a wild pitch. A throwing error on a grounder hit by Kyle Czarnecki brought home Gough to make it 4-2.
After Minooka's Brandon Keyster hled JCA scoreless in the third and fourth, Zach Stoner led off the bottom of the fourth with Minooka's first hit off of JCA starter Alex Vera. Cooper Herold followed with a single of his own. Scott Harper then bunted, and a bad throw to first allowed courtesy runner Trevor Troyner to score. Jake Allgeyer reached on a error that scored Herold with the tying run, and Sam Buduris gave Minooka a 5-4 lead with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Herold.
JCA tied the game in the fifth on an RBI fielder's choice by Fleischauer and put the game away with three runs in the top of the sixth. The big blow in the inning was an RBI double by Max Cullen, who had two doubles on the day.
"This was not our best game, especially defensively," JCA assistant coach Ryan Quigley said. "We had some mistakes by guys who don't usually make them. But, to their credit, they didn't let it get them down and affect them at the plate. We swung the bat well today."
"We gave them quite a few extra outs," Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. "That's uncharacteristic of us. They [JCA] started, I think, eight seniors and we started eight juniors and one senior. There is a lot to be learned from today. It doesn't matter how well you do in travel ball or on the lower levels. Varsity baseball in this area is the best in the state, and the speed of it is amazing. It takes some getting used to, and a game like this is a great learning experience for our young guys.
"I thought our pitchers [Keyster and Jack Bell] gave us a chance to win and got out of some jams that could have made things worse. We have a tremendous amount of excitement and belief in this team, and they believe in themselves. Today was just a bad day."