JCA's Couch no-hits No. 22 Lemont in regional final



By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

LEMONT – The buzz heading into the Class 3A Lemont Regional final was No. 22 Lemont had a fresh Jake Latz, who’s one of the top 2014 left-handers in the Midwest, ready to go against perennial power Joliet Catholic Academy.

After Saturday’s 77-minute regional clash, however, right-hander Sam Couch – all  5-foot-8, 150 pounds of him – had everyone buzzing about his no-hitter, a thoroughly dominant performance that lifted Joliet Catholic to a 3-0 victory, capturing the toughest Class 3A regional championship in Illinois.

If not for a two-out, second-inning walk, Couch (4-1) would’ve had a perfect game. The Lewis University recruit struck out nine, walked one and faced one above the minimum. He worked fast and pounded the strike zone with a devastating 71-74 mph slider and changeup, mixing in an 81-84 mph fastball to keep Lemont (23-7) hitters flailing all game. Couch needed only 78 pitches, 54 of which were strikes.

In his previous start, Couch had shut out No. 4 St. Rita, 1-0, allowing five hits during Joliet Catholic’s run to the Steven M. Bajenski Tournament championship.

“I had everything working today,” said Couch. “I felt like I’ve been getting stronger as the season goes on.”

Joliet Catholic (20-14) was fired up from the first pitch. After Couch struck out the side in the first, the Hilltoppers jumped on Latz for two runs in the bottom half. Sophomore Mitchell Boe opened the game by singling an 89-mph fastball up the middle. Latz proceeded to walk the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. After a getting a strikeout, senior catcher Alex Voitik ripped a two-run double to left field. Voitik, a Holy Cross recruit, finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles.

The Hilltoppers added another run in the second inning when junior left fielder poked an RBI single, scoring senior Ira Hughes, who led off the inning with a hit.

Latz, an LSU recruit, settled down after that. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder began mowing down hitters behind a big-time 70-73 mph curveball and a fastball that ranged between 84-90 mph. Latz struck out 12 and walked three. He yielded four hits, all coming in the first three innings.

With Couch on the mound, though, it was too little, too late.

“After his last start against St. Rita, I thought he couldn’t do better than that,” said JCA coach Jared Voss. “But he one-upped himself today.  … He just pounds the strike zone with three pitches.”

Lemont entered Saturday averaging 7-8 runs a game.

“[Couch] keeps the ball low and throws strikes,” said Lemont coach Brian Storako. “He’s a very good pitcher, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we wouldn’t score any runs, much less get no hit.”

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