Prep Baseball Report

Joliet Catholic captures Class 3A state championship

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

Even before Nick Dalesandro stepped onto Joliet Catholic’s campus, he was widely known as the next baseball prodigy at the baseball -rich program. The multi-talented Dalesandro showed glimpses of his immense ability as a freshman starter last year, but only time would tell if he’d live up to the hype.

On Saturday, Dalesandro showed exactly why he’s one of the top sophomore prospects in the Midwest when he threw a gritty 5-0 shutout to beat St. Francis in the Class 3A state championship game.

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound right-hander ‘s nine-strikeout, seven-hit  performance gave Joliet Catholic (25-14) its third state championship and second in the last five years.

“I told the seniors I’d go out there and do everything I can do for them,” said Dalesandro, who walked two batters and ended his 107-pitch masterpiece by striking out the side in the seventh. “The hype will be there, but I don’t pay much attention to it. It’s cool to look at, but at the end of the day it’s about this right here.”

In an up-and-down season for the Hilltoppers, their pitching staff carried them in the playoffs, posting five shutouts in seven games.

“I don’t see Nick as a sophomore,” said three-year starting shortstop Chris Tschida. “It was unbelievable what he did today.”

Dalesandro’s fastball  sat in the 87-89 mph range for most of the game, climbing as high as 91 mph in the fifth inning. But as well as he pitched, the Hilltoppers were deadlocked in a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, and St. Francis was consistently threatening to score throughout the game. (In-depth breakdown of Dalesandro's performance can be found in Scouting Notes.)

Then came The Play – a seemingly innocuous sacrifice bunt that ultimately doomed St. Francis.

Junior Aaron Markley led off the fourth inning with a single, his second hit of the day, and Tschida followed with a walk. Dalesandro, the team’s cleanup hitter, came to the plate and bunted an inside curveball that barely made it out of the batter’s box. Dalesandro deftly dodged the tag, forcing a throw to first base.

“Like they always say, ‘When you run hard, anything can happen,” said Dalesandro.

Indeed, the throw sailed over the first baseman’s head, allowing Markley to score the game’s first run and opening the floodgates. The Hilltoppers piled on four more runs, thanks to another St. Francis error, a run-scoring triple by junior DH John Kalisik, and a fielder’s choice RBI by catcher Alex Voitik.

When the dust had cleared, Joliet Catholic led 5-0.

“We have a philosophy of staying out of the big inning,” said St. Francis coach Rich Janor. “We had a couple strange things happen, made some mistakes and didn’t recover from it.”

Said Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss:  “After that first run, Nick needed at least one run to pitch behind, to give him room to breathe.”

Joliet Catholic also played a flawless defense, which included a diving catch by centerfielder Zach Jackovich that ended the third inning and kept St. Francis from scoring a run.

St. Francis (25-12) was led by senior catcher Brett Jungles, who had two doubles down the left-field line, and Tim Zettinger also had two hits. The Spartans, who earned the Wheaton school’s first state trophy, had at least two runners on in four innings, but couldn’t break through against Dalesandro.

“I’m honestly speechless,” said Tschida. “This is the reason why I came here, to be playing in this game. When I was in eighth grade, I stood in the stands and watched them dog-pile in the middle of the field. And now I end my career with a dogpile.”