Goss: Strategic move keyed Minooka tourney title
April 5, 2012 7:16PM
Minooka's Steve Wittkamp gets high-fives from teammates after scoring against Lemont. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 7, 2012 8:06AM
Not to take anything away from Minooka winning last weekend’s WJOL/Joliet Central Area Baseball Invitational for the third time in seven years, because the red-hot No. 4 Indians may be right there with the area’s best when all is said and done.
When the tournament dust had settled, however, one thing was evident. If the same eight teams started over this weekend, the order of finish easily could be shuffled.
The Friday quarterfinals, which determined who would play in the winners bracket and consolation bracket Saturday, all were tight. We wound up with the No. 1 Providence vs. No. 5 Joliet Catholic game many anticipated, but for third place rather than the championship as Minooka knocked off the Hilltoppers and No. 9 Lemont whipped the Celtics in the semifinals.
Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss aptly described the tournament as “thunder road. Every game is a battle.”
Some favorite moments, musings and other coaches’ comments.
Ultimate respect: Minooka beat Plainfield Central 2-1 in the quarterfinals thanks to a run-scoring single by tournament MVP Joe Carnagio in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The key to that game, and you might say to Minooka winning the tournament, was Indians ace left-hander Josh Jimenez recording three consecutive strikeouts, against the 4-5-6 hitters in the Central order, to escape a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the top of the first. Jimenez went on to throw six shutout innings.
Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic ordered an intentional walk to Central’s Joe Sparacio with runners on second and third and no outs — yes, in the very first inning — to set up the bases-loaded situation that Jimenez escaped.
Sparacio, who was intentionally walked twice, has hit Jimenez well in the past. Regardless, walking him as the third batter in the game? That’s respect — and a gutsy move that worked.
On Jake Herron: After Providence held off Joliet West 2-1 in the quarterfinals despite the excellent pitching of West right-hander Jake Herron, Tigers coach John Karczewski said, “With Jake on the mound, we can beat anybody.”
To which Providence coach Mark Smith added, “He makes you think at the plate.”
Herron is on my list of most overlooked quality pitchers in the area.
Nauseous ride: Smith was a good quote after the Celtics’ 4-3 victory over Joliet Catholic for third place.
“We made some progression so far, but we’re on a roller coaster, and this roller coaster is making me nauseous,” he said. “A roller coaster is supposed to be fun. I think the talent is here to be a very good team, but we really do lack experience. We have to find an offensive lineup that produces consistently. You might see us try some crazy things to get it right.
“We lost a 37-game home winning streak when we lost to Lemont (in the semifinals). I was proud of that streak. We beat them (a week earlier) 6-1 and when we got up 2-0 early, we thought we had it. When they came right back, we were in shock. Like I said, we’re inexperienced.”
Friday night lights: A popular addition was playing a quarterfinal under the lights at Ed Flink Field, and you could do no better than a Joliet Catholic-Lockport match-up. It was chilly, but the fans came out.
The loss started the No. 10 Porters on an 0-3 weekend, but don’t be fooled. You knew going in that someone had to be 0-3, and there was no obvious candidate to suffer for that fate.
New kids on the block: Plainfield South coach Phil Bodine’s team showed well in the tournament and has played well all season despite injury issues. His No. 1 objective is surviving “with kids on the field who are not used to being on the field and did not come into the season expecting to be on the field.”
The younger, inexperienced Cougars are catching up in a hurry.
On the mend: Consolation champion and No. 7 Plainfield Central hopes to regain the services of right-handed pitcher/shortstop Mark DeYoung later this month. DeYoung suffered a broken arm in the final week of basketball season.
Joliet Catholic ace left-hander Kevin Duchene, who suffered a deep bruise when he was hit on the left foot by a line drive off the bat of Lockport’s Josh Altmann in the first inning of their quarterfinal, is targeted to start when the Hilltoppers face Carmel to open East Suburban Catholic Conference play next Wednesday.
Wishing Knights well: No. 3 Lincoln-Way Central, which was not in the WJOL Invitational, has gotten off to an excellent start.
However, it’s difficult to imagine what coach Sean Bieterman’s program is going through in the wake of the death last weekend of pitcher Tom Schuman, by all accounts a leader and the ideal teammate.
The Knights returned to the diamond Thursday at Andrew. Let’s hope things go as well as possible for them as they play the rest of the season in memory of their teammate.