Goss: A shame we didn’t see the real Minooka
June 9, 2012 10:56PM
Fox Lake Grant second baseman Jacob Adams tags out Minooka's Nick Fleischauer on a stolen base attempt. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 11, 2012 10:22AM
Jeff Petrovic and three of his Minooka seniors waited their turn while the media finished interviewing the contingent from Fox Lake Grant.
The Bulldogs had just beaten the Indians 7-1 in Saturday’s third-place game in the Class 4A State Baseball Tournament at Silver Cross Field. The interview etiquette is that winners go first.
“What I realize now is that you do not want to be second in the interview room,” Petrovic said. “That does not mean good things.”
Petrovic went on to call the weekend “really disappointing.” Minooka (27-15), which had arrived at state having played so well throughout the postseason, expected better than losses of 6-2 to LaGrange Lyons in Friday’s semifinal and then 7-1 to Grant.
“We came here with tons of momentum and thought we were a team to beat,” Petrovic said. “But there are no do-overs, no re-dos.
“There are no excuses, either. The kids in our program, they would be the first ones to own up to it that we did not play here the way we would have liked.”
But while the weekend was a bummer, fourth place in the state’s largest class is a source of pride for the school and a program that, frankly, has arrived as a state power.
“One of the things our kids have done year in and year out is they battled to get to this point,” Petrovic said. “When I was saying something like I don’t know if we will go very far, my wife laughed and said, ‘Your kids know how to play in the postseason.’ ”
Indeed, in Petrovic’s nine seasons at the helm Minooka has a 255-87 record. The Indians have reached the sectional six times, been in three supersectionals and have finished fourth twice, the first in 2006.
“I would venture to guess not many programs in the state have done all of that,” Petrovic said. “The kids in our program past and present have built something to be proud of.”
It truly is a shame the local crowd did not see the Indians at their best this weekend. They did not see the team that won a competitive local regional with victories of 3-0 over Plainfield Central and 2-1 over Plainfield South. They did not see the team that rallied to beat Moline 4-3 in extra innings in the sectional semifinal, or the one that beat O’Fallon 9-0 in the sectional final on senior right-hander Kevin Ruff’s perfect game.
They missed out on seeing the team that derailed Naperville Central 6-3 in the supersectional.
Instead, they saw a Minooka team that was victimized by the strong pitching, excellent defense and timely hitting of its opponents.
“Teams kind of flipped around on us late in the postseason what we were doing earlier,” Petrovic said. “But we have a lot to be proud of. I hope we showed something to kids on the lower levels.”
“It was a great season and we made a great run at the end,” senior right fielder Carson Neushwander said.
“I’ll never forget this season,” said Ruff, who was working on a no-hitter and shutout Saturday until Grant erupted for six runs on eight hits in the fourth inning.
“This season was a great experience,” senior catcher TJ Condon said. “We got great coaching and we took it on the field with us.”
Minooka had nine seniors on its roster, and all were key contributors, including pitchers Ruff and left-hander Josh Jimenez. They leave for the next level disappointed in the outcome of their last two games, but with the knowledge they have furthered their school’s climbing baseball tradition.
And they also were a key element in a remarkable spring season in the overall boys athletic program.
Two weeks ago, while the baseball team was surviving its regional, coach Joe Urbelis’ Indians finished 11th in the Class 3A State Track & Field Meet. That was the Joliet area’s best team finish in 3A.
Then last weekend, while Ruff was throwing his perfect game in the sectional final, the boys volleyball team under coach Janel Grzetich claimed fourth place at the state tournament.
And now, fourth place in baseball.
Someone down there is doing something right. A giant thumbs-up to the Indians.