Couch does it again, leads JCA to 3A title game



By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

JOLIET, IL – The stage was bigger, but the result was the same Friday afternoon. Another game, another shutout for Joliet Catholic Academy right-hander Sam Couch.

Ho-hum.

Only this time, Couch threw his gem in the Class 3A state semifinals to defeat Mt. Vernon 4-0 and send the surging Hilltoppers into Saturday’s championship game.

The 5-foot-8, 150-pound Couch (6-1) tossed his fourth consecutive shutout – third of the playoffs. Against Mt. Vernon, the Lewis recruit yielded only four hits, struck out five and walked none to push the Hilltoppers (24-14) a step closer to the school’s third state championship, and second in five years.

Couch, who fed Mt. Vernon (31-8-1) his usual diet of sliders, needed only 88 pitches in a game that lasted only 67 minutes.

“I just try to throw strikes and get outs. That’s what I do,” said Couch.

If only it was that simple. Couch, however, made it look easy. He worked fast all game long, and when Mt. Vernon posed a threat in the second inning, he rolled a double play and got a strike out to end the inning. He also ended the game in a flourish by striking out the final two batters.

“After each time, I said, ‘I need another one from you, I need another one from you,” said JCA coach Jared Voss. “He’s answered the bell every time.”

Joliet Catholic did all its scoring in the first two innings, scoring a pair in each the first and second innings. Western Illinois-bound SS Chris Tschida delivered a two-run single in the second inning. DH John Kalisk had a run-scoring single in the first and Ryan Peter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the first inning.

Sophomore 2B Mitchell Boe went 3-for-4 with two runs for the Hilltoppers, and Tschida had a hit, two RBI and scored a run.

Mt. Vernon ace junior RHP Brock Fulkerson (11-3) settled down after the first two innings. The 6-foot-4 right-hander yielded eight hits with one strikeout, no walks and two hit batsmen in his complete-game effort.

JCA now advances to play St. Francis in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

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