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Baseball: Joliet Catholic cruises to Class 2A State Tournament

GENESEO —  One might think it would be an unreasonable expectation to ask a pitching staff to line up four consecutive postseason shutouts to get one’s team to the state tournament.

But since Jared Voss’ Joliet Catholic pitching staff has done just that following a 10-0 shutout over Brimfield in the Class 2A Geneseo Supersectional title game, he’s happy to simply let his pitchers engage in a battle of anything you can do I can do better.

The victory lifts Joliet Catholic (24-10) into Friday’s Class 2A State Tournament at Peoria’s Dozer Park where it will face either Freeburg or Columbia at 5 p.m. This is Joliet Catholic’s first state tournament appearance since 2013.

The Hilltoppers pitching staff has been splendid all postseason and entered Monday’s game on a string of three postseason shutouts in a row. The only postseason runs Joliet Catholic has allowed came in their first postseason contest where Wilmington managed to plate three runs in the regional semifinals.

It may have been a tad unrealistic for the string to continue on Monday against a Brimfield squad that entered the contest with a 31-2 mark, but sophomore Jake Gimbel was up to the task.

After maneuvering out of a little first inning trouble due to back-to-back walks, Gimbel stranded a runner at third with a strikeout of Kyle Binder. It was his first strikeout of the game, but certainly not his last and would also be the only runner that would manage to reach third base for Brimfield all afternoon.

“We’ve just got to keep it rolling,” Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss said. “It’s been like that from the very beginning. Those guys are just so focused, they are so locked in and they are so prepared and they are going to give us a chance every time.”

The Hilltoppers failed to score off Brimfield ace Frank Kelch in the first inning but got him to throw a healthy share of pitches. But Kelch came unraveled in the second, issuing a pair of walks, hitting a batter and committing a fielding error all sandwiched around singles from Ryan Louthan, Brennan Luz and Jackson Cullen. When the dust cleared, Kelch was out of the game and Joliet Catholic had a 7-0 lead on just three hits.

That was more than enough for Gimbel.

He surrendered the only hit he allowed to start off the second inning when Landon Binder dumped a clean single into shallow left field, but he responded by striking out two of the next three batters he faced and then struck out the side in the third.

“My fastball was working really well, I thought I was locating very well,” Gimbel said. “I was really working to keep the ball down, I didn’t really have my change-up today, but I was able to work around it.”

It didn’t seem to matter if Gimbel had his change-up or not, a hint of trouble popped in the fourth but he promptly escaped that by picking off a runner and then striking out his eighth batter during his four inning stint of work in what has become almost the expectation from the JCA pitching staff.

“We try,” Gimbel said with a laugh. “T.J. (Swiderski) has been fantastic, and I always try to ride off of what he does, being a year younger than him, follow in his footsteps and do the best I can.”

Joliet Catholic’s pitching staff has been so good that they have to try to find ways to wedge in work for other pitchers so they stay fresh. Dom Coda relieved Gimbel in the fifth inning who closed out the game with a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth and officially punched Joliet Catholic’s ticket to Peoria.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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