No. 25 Limestone's Jewell throws a gem, blanks No. 14 Metamora

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

METAMORA, IL – Zach Jewell stands 6-foot-3 with a wiry, projectable pitcher’s frame. His fastball is lively, his slider sharp, and, apparently, he handles the putter well.

One can only assume that he’s really good on the golf course, because that’s the sport the Limestone senior right-hander is playing in college – and not baseball.

Jewell proved to No. 14 Metamora and a packed crowd for this Mid-Illini first-place matchup Monday night that he certainly can have a future in baseball. Jewell threw a three-hit masterpiece to lead No. 25 Limestone to a surprising 2-0 victory, spoiling Metamora’s senior night and hopes of winning the Mid-Illini championship outright.

And Jewell (7-0) accomplished the feat by outdueling one of the state’s most dominant pitchers, sophomore right-hander Trent Johnson (7-1), a 6-foot-4, 235-pound University of Arizona recruit who had steamrolled his opponents this season. The unassuming Jewell, who will golf at Illinois Central College next year, struck out six and walked none in shutting out a high-scoring Metamora (25-5, 12-1) offense.

“I felt like my stuff wasn’t working that well tonight,” said Jewell. “I just got the job done. … The team played great defense behind me.”

Jewell, of course, was being modest. He pounded the zone with four pitches, including a fastball that sat in the 84-87 mph range for seven innings. A fastball, in fact, that enabled him to strike out the side in the seventh to give Limestone (22-5, 13-0) at least a share of the conference championship. The two teams will play each other on Wednesday in the final conference game. If Metamora wins, the two teams will share the Mid-Illini championship. Otherwise, it’s all Limestone. Jewell also flashed a sharp 75-mph slider at times, along with a curveball and changeup.

Jewell had to be on his game to match Johnson, who’s currently ranked the No. 2 prospect in Illinois’ loaded 2015 class. Johnson, who entered the game with a 1.49 ERA, yielded seven hits, struck out nine, walked two and hit one batter in his complete-game effort.

The two pitchers carried a shutout through five innings before Limestone finally broke through in the sixth. Limestone loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a single by senior centerfielder Dylan Weaver. Sophomore DH Dominic Johnson delivered the game-winning hit when his grounder found its way past athletic 3B Spencer Gaa and SS Alec Skender, scoring two runs. Johnson got out of the inning without any further damage with consecutive strikeouts.

The offense, however, proved plenty for Jewell. He set down the side in order in the sixth. He struck out the first batter in the bottom of the seventh, then yielded a single to Alec Skender – his second hit of the day – before he struck out the final two batters to conclude this crisp 82-minute affair.

“We have a team,” said Limestone coach Derek Renz said. “Realistically, we don’t have a lot of Division I talent. But what we have is a team full of grinders. We have a lot of expectations here.”

Complete prospect reports from the game will be posted on Tuesday at the Illinois Scouting Blog.

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