Prep Baseball Report

Joliet Catholic, Nazareth advance to IHSBCA state title game

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

LISLE - Joliet Catholic Academy (18-0) moved one step closer to being the first IHSBCA/Phil Lawler Summer State Champion to win the championship with a perfect record in the 39th edition of the  tournament. In another IHSBCA/Phil Lawler Summer State Tournament Classic classic, junior Drake Fellows’ line single to left plated senior Keegan Tyrell with the Hilltopper game-winner, as JCA slipped past Prospect 3-2 in a semifinal game at Benedictine University.

With the win the Hilltoppers will meet East Suburban Catholic Conference rival Nazareth Academy in the Phil Lawler Summer State Championship Game on Thursday night at 7 p.m. In the first semifinal game, Nazareth (24-11) crushed PraIrie Ridge 12-1 in 4 and a half innings.

Prospect senior lefty Tyler Damaski. picked up his fifth strikeout of the game to open the Hilltopper bottom of the seventh with the game tied at 2-2.The 5-foot-9, 160 pound southpaw had kept the hard-hitting Hilltoppers off-balance with a dazzling display of breaking balls all evening. Iowa-bound Mitch Boe ripped a double and after Tyrell walked, Prospect head coach Ross Giusti went to his  pen and called on senior Willie Sampson. Purdue-bound Nick Dalesandro greeted Sampson with a line single to center, which everyone thought was a game-winner, scoring the fleet-footed Boe with the winning run. Not so fast, said Damaski, who went to center when he was replaced on the mound. Damaski fired  a perfect strike from center to Knight catcher Grant Miller, who put the tag on Boe for the second out of the inning. The left handed hitting Fellows ripped a shot to left-center and Tyrell raced home with the Hilltopper game winner.

“I went to the plate trying to take the ball up the middle or go the other way to left,” said Fellows. “Nazareth is an outstanding team and we have to stay energized to take home the state title.”

Prospect jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the second. The inning was highlighted by senior Matt Nadler’s RBI single. Damaski dazzled the Hilltoppers, allowing just one hit through the first four innings. In the bottom of the fifth, JCA senior Connor Brandon reached second on a two-base Knight miscue. Hilltopper winning pitcher Mike Quiram got plunked. Damaski retired the next two Hilltopper batters before walking Tyrell to load the bases. Dalesandro followed with a clutch two-out, two-run single to center to tie the game at 2-2.

“I am the captain on this team and I had to do something to help us win the game,” said Dalesandro. “I hit the ball a little too hard to win it in the seventh but my little bro Drake picked me up and gave us the opportunity to play for a state championship tomorrow.”

Quiram had made a great play at third base to end the Prospect sixth and then retired the Knights1-2-3 in the top of the seventh to pick up the win. Seniors Danny Belling and Alex Ragusa each pitched two shutout innings of relief as head coach Jared Voss’ “pitching committee” once again helped lead the Hilltoppers to victory.

“Another great win for us,” said Voss. “Nick came through with the big clutch two-run single to get us even in the fifth. We thought Nick had won it for us in the seventh but Drake picked us up with his game-winner. The pitching committee once again did a great job for us on the mound. A very familiar opponent for us in tomorrow’s championship game. Lee (Milano) does a great job at Nazareth and it should be a great game.”

You can watch the 2014 Phil Lawler Summer State Tournament Championship Game LIVE at Thursday night at 7. Yours truly will have the call along with my broadcast partner from the Joliet Herald News Dick Goss. Special Guests include Phil Lawler Summer Classic Tournament Director and Naperville Central head coach Mike Stock. Also Benet Academy associate head coach Todd Lawler, son of Phil Lawler, will drop in during the broadcast.

In the first IHSBCA/Phil Lawler Summer Classic semifinal on Wednesday, Nazareth sent 12 men to the plate in the bottom of the second. Eight Roadrunners scored and put this game to bed early and rolled to 12-1 win over Prairie Ridge. Junior Chris Campagna fired a two-hitter at the Wolves with eight punchouts.

“I had a plan to come out and throw strikes today and was very happy that I was able to do it,” said Campagna. “The eight-run inning delay slowed me down a little but was no big deal. It’s great to be back where our 2010 state champion team was and it will be a great game tomorrow night to watch.”

Campagna’s junior batterymate Shane Gipson went 3-for-3 and once again was tremendous behind the plate.

“I was looking for good pitches to hit and got them and hit well tonight,” said Gipson. “We would like to play JCA but we really will come out and play hard against anyone that we play.”

Senior Matt Flach had two hits including a double and plated three Roadrunner runs. Junior Kyle Kane chipped in with a two-run single for the Roadrunners.

“Chris did a great job throwing strikes and we got some big hits and came away with the victory,” said Nazareth Academy head coach Lee Milano. “Chris’ ability to only allow one run after the long delay during our eight-run inning was huge for us tonight. That could have been easily a four or fun run inning for them.”

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