Joliet Catholic Holds On To Win Second Straight 2A State Title

By: Diego Solares
Area Scout, Illinois & Missouri

Last season, Joliet Catholic and Columbia met in the 2A state semi-finals, hosted annually at Dozer Park in Peoria, Illinois. The Hilltoppers, who would go on to eventually claim the tournament’s crown, handed the Eagles a 4-1 loss. 

Saturday forced a rematch between these two squads with much higher odds at stake, as the Hilltoppers and Eagles squared off for part two in this year’s state championship game. 

Joliet Catholic jumped on Columbia early, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. Singles from Vinny Spotofora (2023; College of Dupage) and Brett Hulbert (2023) brought runs in, and the Hilltoppers would add another on a throwing error from Columbia’s backstop. 

Spotofora delivered again in the top of the third inning. A walk to Jake Troyner (2024) gave the Hilltoppers a two-out baserunner, and Joliet Catholic’s three-hole hitter swiped second, putting himself into scoring position. Spotofora flicked yet another ball to left field, scoring the run from second to put his squad up 4-0. 

Columbia threatened the Hilltoppers’ lead for the first time in the bottom of the fourth. 

Leadoff man Jack Steckler (2023) drew a walk and star senior Dominic Voegele (2023; Kansas) drove a ball deep into the left-center gap for a ground-rule double, missing a two-run blast by a few feet. Steckler would come across to score on a wild pitch, and Voegele crossed home two pitches later on a groundout to second base from Alex Schreckenberg (2023). After four, the Eagles trailed Joliet Catholic 4-2. 

Columbia threatened again in the bottom of the fifth, chasing Joliet Catholic’s starting pitcher from the contest, bringing senior Michael Tuman (2023) into the game from the ‘pen. 

Reed Drabant (2023) dropped down a sacrifice bunt for Columbia, moving the existing runner on first into scoring position. Steckler was hit by a pitch, and the Eagles had runners on first and second with one out. Tuman collected himself, however, and struck out the next two batters to end the rally. 

Tuman was locked in over the next two frames, sending the Eagles down in order to lock down the save, and Joliet Catholic’s state championship. The Hilltoppers are back-to-back champions, finishing the 2023 season 26-8-1.


Saturday’s third place game pitted the Quincy Notre Dame Raiders and the DePaul College Prep Rams against each other with a 3:00 p.m. start. 

Quincy Notre Dame scored in the top of the first inning on a wild pitch, though the Rams responded immediately with two runs of their own in the frame’s bottom half. 

AJ Garcia (2023; Michigan signee) started the inning off with a single, flying around the bases on a single from Oliver Vigerust (2023), and scoring after an error by the Raiders’ left fielder. Vigerust himself would score later in the frame on a single from Kevin O’Connor (2024). 

Quincy Notre Dame scored their first run of the contest in the fourth inning. Michael Stupavsky (2023; Illinois-Wesleyan) started the inning off with a walk. He’d move into scoring position on a groundout, crossing home after a pull-side single from junior Evan Kenning (2024). 

Back-to-back doubles from Brady Kindhart (2023; Maryville) and Stupavsky started the top of the sixth for the Raiders, tying the game. The Raiders would score another run in the inning on a wild pitch. 

Three more runs in the top of the seventh inning heavily bolstered the Raiders’ lead. Dalton Miller (2023; State Fair CC) started the frame by reaching on an error, with consecutive singles from Kindhart and Stupavsky to follow. Nolan Robb (2024) brought all of them home on one swing, belting a bases-clearing three-run double down the right field line. 

Quincy Notre Dame starter Tyler Dance (2023; John Wood CC) put the finishing touches on his complete game win with a scoreless seventh, securing the Raiders’ third place finish in these state playoffs. He scattered six hits in total, allowing just an earned run in his outing, while fanning three. 

The Raiders finished their historic season with a 36-2 record in head coach Rich Polak’s first season at the helm. It’s the highest that Quincy Notre Dame has finished in postseason play since they were runner-ups in 2004.