Prep Baseball Report

No. 4 JCA puts on pitching clinic, sweeps Marist

By Drake Skleba

JOLIET - No. 4 Joliet Catholic Academy put on a pitching and defensive exhibition at Gillespie Field on Saturday. The result was two shutouts in an important East Suburban Catholic twin-bill sweep of No. 18 Marist.

University of Illinois-bound LHP Kevin Duchene struck out 16 Marist hitters and fired a four-hit shutout in the Hilltoppers’ 5-0 game one victory.

In game two, Hilltopper junior right-handed pitcher Cal Placher and senior right-hander Chris Blatti combined for a two-hit shutout, as JCA won 1-0 in 10 innings, to complete the sweep.

In total, that’s 17 Innings, 0 runs, 6 hits, 22 strikeouts and five walks for the three Hilltopper pitchers on Saturday.

The JCA defense: One error. Marist’s Cody Bohanek reached on an error by JCA shortstop Chris Tschida to lead off the Marist first inning in game one. The Hilltopper defense the rest of the afternoon handled 34 chances flawlessly. Tschida handled 11 of the 34.

Game One: Joliet Catholic 5, Marist 0

JCA senior lefty Kevin Duchene (7-0), fired a four-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts, to lead the Hilltoppers (24-6-1; 12-2). The 16 strikeouts were a season high for the future Fighting Illini. His career high is 18, set last season.

The Hilltoppers struck for three runs in the top of the third inning off of Marist starting pitcher Cody Bohanek (2-2). With two-outs, Hilltopper freshman Nick Dalesandro ripped an RBI single, scoring Tschida, who had doubled, for the first run of the game. Senior Adam Collins followed with a clutch two-out, two RBI single to extend JCA's lead to 3-0.

Meanwhile Duchene was making life hard for the Redhawk batsman. In the fourth and fifth innings, he recorded five consecutive strikeouts. Duchene struck out three in the second, third, fifth and seventh innings. Complete domination.

The Hilltoppers put the game away in their half of the sixth with a pair of runs. The first run of the inning scored on a wild pitch and the final run scored on another clutch two-out RBI single by junior Ryan Peter. Four out the five Hilltopper runs were scored after two outs.

“Clutch hitting, pitching and defense, wins championships,” said Joliet Catholic head coach Jared Voss. “The kids are getting ready for our state tournament run. These are the things we must do to win the Class 3A state championship.” 

Making a strong play for this week's Porsche Player of the Week, Duchene has pitched 11 innings on the mound in the week. He is 2-0 and has allowed but five hits. He has struck out 28 hitters and walked none in two games against Marian Catholic and No.18 Marist today.

“It was great to have the run support by my teammates,” said Duchene. “My pitches were all working, especially my slider. I got ahead with it and it was a good strikeout pitch. My fastball up was another good strikeout pitch that was effective for me.”

Game 2: Joliet Catholic 1, Marist 0 (10 innings)

The game two match-up filled up the highlight cube at, as both squads put on a defensive clinic for the wet fans gathered at Gillespie Field.

Marist junior right-hander Ian Woodworth fired nine scoreless for Marist (23-10; 11-5). Hilltopper junior Cal Placher and senior Chris Blatti combined for a two-hit shutout as the Hilltopper scored a run in the bottom of the 10th  to win this thriller.

“Cal pitched great for us today and I was very happy with the job I did in relief,” said Blatti.

The defensive play of the game, in a game loaded with defensive gems, occurred in the top of the sixth. With Marist runners on first and third, with two outs, Marist Ryan Meyer dropped what appeared to be a perfect suicide squeeze bunt.

But the athletic Placher jumped on the bunt and fired a strike to junior catcher Alex Voitik, who put the tag on Marist courtesy runner Dan Rochford, to close out the inning and save the game.

“I pitched well today but I only had one strikeout,” said Placher “On the suicide bunt, it was hit right at me and all I had to do was get it to Alex. Prior to this year I played in the field, so I know how to catch the baseball.”

In the bottom of the tenth, against Marist senior LHP Jim Golden, the Hilltoppers won it. Senior Adam Collins led off the inning with his third hit of the game and fifth of the twin-bill.

“I hit the ball well today,” said Collins. “I'm proud of my performance today and this was a big day for us, as we take it one game at a time toward a conference title.”

Junior Ira Hughes laid down a fine sac-bunt and when the Marist catcher threw the ball down the right-field line, the Hilltoppers were in business. Sophomore Rilen Bannon was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Junior Brock Pluth sent the wet Hiltopper contingent home happy, when he ripped a shot to right that was hauled in by Marist right-fielder Jim Carroll. Carroll fell down making the catch as the offensive player of the day, Collins, slid across the plate with Hilltopper game-winner.

“When I hit the ball I thought hit it in the gap,” said Pluth. “I was aggressive at the plate and although I ended up with a sac-fly, it still was a great feeling.”

Joliet Catholic Academy will travel to La Grange Park and take on Nazareth (22-5; 6-4) on Monday and be back at Gillespie Field for the ESCC  finale on Wednesday.

Carmel (17-9; 9-3) split a pair with Benet Academy, losing 2-1 in the opener and winning the night-cap 7-0. The Corsairs will play two-game series with St. Patrick on Monday and Wednesday before hosting Nazareth on Saturday in the season finale doubleheader.

“Cal pitched well for us tonight and made one of the greatest plays I have ever seen on a suicide bunt,” said Voss. “Prior to this year Cal was a position player and really showed his athleticism on that play.

“Chris Blatti did a fine job in relief and will provide us with another outstanding arm for the stretch drive. Brock came through for us in the tenth and Adam had quite a day at the plate for us.”

IL Top Prospect Showcase slide 6-14-12