Goss: Minooka Regional filled with good local baseball match-ups
May 20, 2012 6:28PM
Minooka’s Josh Jimenez. | Ray Luna~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:17PM
Minooka senior left-hander Josh Jimenez had just applied the finishing touches Tuesday to a 1-0 Southwest Prairie Conference victory over Plainfield Central.
Plainfield Central senior Joe Sparacio singled, walked and lined out to center fielder Alex Bebar in his three at-bats. Jimenez was thrilled to retire his nemesis.
“I can’t keep Sparacio off base,” he said. “I probably faced him 15 times over the years and I think I’ve gotten him out twice.
“Even after this year is over I’m not going to get rid of him because we’ll be in the same conference. I’m going to Bellarmine and he’s going to Lewis. I guess I’ll just have to try a little harder against him.”
Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic has the same respect for Sparacio, whom he has seen an awful lot this season alone and could see one last time Wednesday in one of our area’s best regional semifinal match-ups.
Jimenez beat Plainfield Central 2-1 in the WJOL Tournament early this season. After Tuesday’s 1-0 win, he noted, “In past years, Plainfield Central had my number, so it feels good to have two good ones against them this year.”
Minooka went on to win last week’s series two games to one to clinch second place behind Plainfield North, which won the league for a fourth straight year and is the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Romeoville Sectional.
But unlike the sectional complexes for schools in the immediate Chicago area, the rest of the state plays in sectionals where the regional combatants are set beforehand. The 4A Minooka Regional has that arrangement, and with due respect to the rest of our area, that one is hard to beat for local interest.
It kicks off Monday with No. 5 seed Joliet Central taking on No. 4 Plainfield Central. The survivor will face No. 1 Minooka in Wednesday’s semifinal, with Jimenez scheduled to pitch for the Indians.
Thursday’s semifinal will pit No. 2 Plainfield South against No. 3 Joliet West, which shared the SouthWest Suburban Blue championship with Lockport. Again, from an area standpoint, this is a terrific semifinal.
After being offensively challenged the first half of the season, Joliet West found the joy of scoring runs in the second half. The Tigers have a legitimate ace in junior right-hander Jake Herron and other quality pitching, including junior Quinn Ahern and sophomore Anthony DiNardo.
As for South, there was a time this season when coach Phil Bodine’s Cougars were viewed as a bit of a surprise, but no longer. Right-hander Julian Clouse leads a staff that has gotten the job done.
So there truly are four local teams in the Minooka Regional that can advance to the Bloomington Sectional without us calling it a major surprise. And if Joliet Central can get a little offense going, the Steelmen can shake things up as well.
Elsewhere in Class 4A, defending state runner-up Providence is the No. 1 seed in the Andrew Sectional and fully capable of living up to that billing. With Dave Hearne and Zak Kutsulis heading a deep pitching staff, the Celtics will be a tough out.
A game that should be interesting in the Providence Regional is Thursday’s semifinal between No. 8 Lincoln-Way East and No. 9 Lincoln-Way Central. The teams split two SouthWest Suburban Blue games last week. The winner, of course, is expecting to see Providence in the regional final.
Lockport is the No. 6 seed in the Andrew Sectional and may face No. 2 Lincoln-Way North in the Lincoln-Way North Regional final. The Porters, better than your average 6-seed, also are capable of making a run.
Plainfield North is led on the mound and at the plate by Notre Dame recruit Joe Cresta, who has been Mr. Clutch. The Romeoville Sectional will not be an easy ride, but don’t be surprised if these Tigers secure the school’s first sectional title.
In Class 3A, East Suburban Catholic champ Joliet Catholic caught fire late the second half of the season. The Hilltoppers, the No. 2 seed behind Oak Forest in the Lincoln-Way West Sectional, should advance through the regional they will host.
But it’s the sectional that should be interesting. Joliet Catholic will face the winner of the Crete-Monee Regional, likely either No. 3 seed Lemont or No. 6 Lincoln-Way West, in the second game of a semifinal doubleheader May 30. Defending state runner-up Oak Forest would play either Illiana Christian or Marian in the first game.
Will Oak Forest pitch fireballing right-hander Kyle Funkhouser in the semifinals or holds him for the sectional final? Committed to Louisville, Funkhouser is one of the state’s best.
Of course, so is Joliet Catholic left-hander Kevin Duchene, who has enjoyed a marvelous season. Duchene’s future Illinois teammate, Lemont left-hander Tyler Jay, is no slouch, either.
Exciting baseball everywhere. But the 4A regional this week at Minooka and the 3A sectional next week at Lincoln-Way West should be special for local baseball enthusiasts.