Prep Baseball Report

Minooka outlasts No. 3 JCA in 10 to win WJOL title

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

JOLIET - Pitching and defense wins championships, and it certainly did for the Minooka Indians in the WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial Baseball Tournament. In the Championship Game at Silver Cross Field on Saturday night, the Indians outlasted Joliet Catholic Academy 1-0 in 10 thrilling innings of baseball.

Seniors  Mitch Malone and Trevor Maly, along with sophomore Joe Butler, limited the hard-hitting defending Class 3A state champion Hilltoppers to just eight hits. The Indian trio was toughest when the going got tough. On three separate occasions, each one pitched out of bases-loaded situations. In the three games of the tournament, Indian pitchers pitched 22 innings and allowed zero runs.

Minooka (5-1) scored the lone run of the game in the top of the 10th. After two out, Tournament MVP shortstop Neal Tyrell singled for his third hit of the game. With junior Christian Sanchez at the plate, Tyrell moved into scoring position on a passed-ball. When the JCA catcher froze with the ball in his hand, the fleet-footed Lewis University recruit took third base. Sanchez hammered a shot between first and second that JCA second baseman Rylan Bannon knocked down but could not make a play on Sanchez, as Tyrell streaked across home plate with the eventual winning-run.
“I told myself to forget my two previous failed opportunities to get us a run home,” said Sanchez. ”Neal made such a great play to get to third base, that it gave me confidence to get the game-winning hit.”

The game started out as a battle between Minooka’s senior RHP Malone and Joliet Catholic Academy’s Vanderbilt-recruit RHP sophomore Drake Fellows. Both pitchers matched goose eggs through three and half innings. In the JCA fourth, the Hilltoppers loaded the bases against Malone with no out, on singles from junior Mitch Boe, junior Nick Dalesandro and senior Aaron Markley. Malone dispatched the next three JCA batters on a pop out to second, a strikeout and a hopper back to Malone.

Maly relieved Malone in the sixth and pitched out of a bases loaded, one out situation and went on to throw 3.2 innings of scoreless relief until relieved by Butler in the ninth.

For Joliet Catholic, Fellows was spectacular, allowing just two hits in his seven scoreless innings of work with nine strikeouts. The Vanderbilt-recruit did not walk a batter.  

Butler continued the Houdini imitations by the Minooka pitchers in the bottom of the ninth, in relief of Maly. Butler immediately loaded the bases by walking Boe. Two out, bases loaded and Dalesandro at the plate. The sophomore came through with a strike out of the future Boilermaker for another amazing escape.  
“With two strikes, I went after Dalesandro with a breaking ball and just missed and came back and got him on a high fastball. I went out there and just threw my best pitches tonight. My catcher (senior Tyler Desmarais) played the best game ever for me tonight.”

Tyrell, who finished with three singles, two stolen bases and scored the winning run, was voted the MVP by the local media.

“I knew if I could get ninety feet closer it would help increase the chances for Chris Sanchez to get me home with the winning run,” said Tyrell. “Our pitching was outstanding and that sophomore (Butler) continues to amaze us at what he can do. It’s just an amazing feeling winning the championship and the MVP.”

For the Indians, it is their unprecedented fourth WJOL.Don Ladas Memorial Tournament championship.

“Pitching is a huge part of our game,” said Minooka head coach Jeff Petrovic.”How do you go through a whole tournament without giving up a run? Pitching and defense wins championships. I was on the edge of the bench the entire game. It was truly an amazing championship game.”

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