Prep Baseball Report

Top-10 Stories of 2023: No. 4 Joliet Catholic Captures Second Consecutive State Title

By: Pete Hamot
Area Scout, Staff Writer

The Hilltoppers capped off a memorable 2023 campaign with their second consecutive 2A state title, finishing with an overall record of 26-8-1. 

One of the favorites heading into the playoffs, JCA cruised through their regional bracket, taking down Seneca by the score of 3-0 and then Wilmington 5-3. They rolled through their sectional bracket as well, defeating Leo 11-1 and then taking the sectional championship by the score of 10-0 over Chicago Christian. They continued rolling through the super sectionals, defeating Spring Valley Hall by a convincing 14-4 margin to send them to state once again. 

It was much of the same when they made it to Peoria, cruising to the state finals with a 10-3 victory over Quincy Notre Dame. They squared off with Columbia for the title, and eventually came away victorious by the score of 4-2, giving them their second state championship in as many years. 

The Hilltoppers had no easy task of replacing seven starters from last season's state championship team. However, this year's squad had plenty of firepower in their offense led by CIF Jake Troyner (2024; Illinois-Chicago), OF Thomas Kemp (2023) and OF Trey Swiderski (2023; Louisville) - with all three players earning ESCC All-Conference honors. 

Troyner led the team in batting average, hitting to a .433 clip in 130 plate-appearances with a .591 OBP, 1.202 OPS, .611 SLG, 11 doubles, 29 walks, 27 RBI and 29 runs scored. Kemp wasn’t far behind with a .394 average in 133 plate-appearances, collecting a .512 OBP, .964 OPS, 16 RBIs, 35 runs scored, and only striking out 10 times all year. Swiderski was yet another force to be reckoned with in the lineup, equipped with his undeniable raw power, he also posted a .361 average in 122 plate-appearances with a .484 OBP, 1.061 OPS, .577 SLG, eight doubles, two triples, three home runs, 34 RBI and 27 runs scored.  

There were plenty more names that helped oil the offensive machine, such as senior and College of DuPage commit Vinny Spotofora (ESCC All-Conference, .359 BA, .459 OBP, .915 OPS, 22 RBI, 24 R), senior North Central commit Brett Hulbert (.357 BA, .495 OBP, .983 OPS, 22 RBI, 22 R) and junior Graham Roesel (.333 BA, .406 OBP, .799 OPS, 17 RBI, 23 R).

The Hilltoppers were led on the mound by LHP TJ Schlageter (2023; Louisville), who led the team in just about every category on the mound; boasting a spotless 7-0 record with 52.1 innings, 69 strikeouts, 16 walks, a 1.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP - earning him PBR Illinois Second-Team All-State honors as well as Joliet Area/Will County Player of the Year. 

RHP Michael Tuman (2023; College of DuPage) was another key factor for JCA on the mound, compiling 52 innings with a 4-2 record, 58 strikeouts to just 13 walks, a 1.74 ERA and 1.04 WHIP - earning him ESCC All-Conference honors. 

The Hill were fortunate to have plenty of pitching depth, with names such as RHP Nate Cienmy (2023; Wisconsin-Parkside) and LHP Jacob Gimbel (2024; Heartland) both posting low-3.00 ERAs with over 30 innings apiece.  

They also had junior fireballer and Tennessee commit RHP Aidan Hayse up their sleeve, who struck out 32 in 18.2 innings pitched with a 4-1 record and 3.38 ERA.  

There were many key pieces in the Hilltoppers’ historic run, but one that can’t be overlooked is Head Coach Jared Voss. The IHSBCA Hall of Fame inductee now has four state titles to his name, which is tied for the most in IHSA history; along with six state championship appearances, the most in IHSA history. In 24 seasons, Voss has accumulated a 617-252-4 record, and he'll certainly look to keep Joliet Catholic in contention this coming year as they make the jump back to 3A. 

Below you'll find the game story from the Hilltoppers' victory in June:

Joliet Catholic Holds on to win second straight 2A state Title

By: Diego Solares

Last season, Joliet Catholic and Columbia met in the 2A state semi-finals, hosted annually at Dozer Park in Peoria, Illinois. The Hilltoppers, who would go on to eventually claim the tournament’s crown, handed the Eagles a 4-1 loss. 

Saturday forced a rematch between these two squads with much higher odds at stake, as the Hilltoppers and Eagles squared off for part two in this year’s state championship game. 

Joliet Catholic jumped on Columbia early, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. Singles from Vinny Spotofora (2023; College of Dupage) and Brett Hulbert (2023) brought runs in, and the Hilltoppers would add another on a throwing error from Columbia’s backstop. 

Spotofora delivered again in the top of the third inning. A walk to Jake Troyner (2024) gave the Hilltoppers a two-out baserunner, and Joliet Catholic’s three-hole hitter swiped second, putting himself into scoring position. Spotofora flicked yet another ball to left field, scoring the run from second to put his squad up 4-0. 

Columbia threatened the Hilltoppers’ lead for the first time in the bottom of the fourth. 

Leadoff man Jack Steckler (2023) drew a walk and star senior Dominic Voegele (2023; Kansas) drove a ball deep into the left-center gap for a ground-rule double, missing a two-run blast by a few feet. Steckler would come across to score on a wild pitch, and Voegele crossed home two pitches later on a groundout to second base from Alex Schreckenberg (2023). After four, the Eagles trailed Joliet Catholic 4-2. 

Columbia threatened again in the bottom of the fifth, chasing Joliet Catholic’s starting pitcher from the contest, bringing senior Michael Tuman (2023) into the game from the ‘pen. 

Reed Drabant (2023) dropped down a sacrifice bunt for Columbia, moving the existing runner on first into scoring position. Steckler was hit by a pitch, and the Eagles had runners on first and second with one out. Tuman collected himself, however, and struck out the next two batters to end the rally. 

Tuman was locked in over the next two frames, sending the Eagles down in order to lock down the save, and Joliet Catholic’s state championship. The Hilltoppers are back-to-back champions, finishing the 2023 season 26-8-1.


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